The Oarsman

Editorial: Student Advocacy for Gun Reform Must Persevere

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Editorial: Student Advocacy for Gun Reform Must Persevere

On Feb. 14 2018, a national tragedy took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. A school shooting claimed 17 lives and injured 17 others. The shooting, the fourth most deadly school shooting in US history, sparked an unavoidable wave of media coverage and activism. This wave also took hold of our own Venice High School.

A memoriam for the 17 victims was held at Venice on March 14 as part of a larger, coordinated high school effort. The memoriam brought hundreds of students to the front lawn. The remarkable display of solidarity and activism touched students and staff alike.

In the face of another tragedy, Venice and Parkland students were tired of the same cycle of shock, grief and then complacency that usually happens after a shooting. America is one of the few countries in the developed world to experience a regular number of school shootings, so their shock is dulled by the quantity of them. Parkland’s deadliness and the outspokenness of its surviving students seemed to disrupt this constant. Parkland students, including Emma González, David Hogg and Cameron Kasky formed the group “March for Our Lives” as a way to organize direct action and gun reform.

“I think the victims don’t need prayers and thoughts, they need change,” said  Jessica Hernandez, who was a senior at the time. “They need law changes and gun control.”

Venice junior Thomas Koon was a key organizer of last-year’s event. He is the current president of Venice High’s Students Deserve chapter.

“Groups like Students Deserve don’t directly address gun violence,” he described, “but they do address the issues that cause gun violence.” Koon went on to reflect on the past year.

“There have definitely been more eyes on the NRA and the gun lobby. March for Our Lives definitely countered the NRA and a lot of the rhetoric in the US political discourse. But, I’m not exactly sure of any substantial policy that has been implemented across the country to stop gun violence.”

It’s been over a year since Parkland, but what policy or regulations have been won in the fight against guns?

“Almost nothing,” said senior Collin Domino, who echoed Koon’s sentiment. “I mean, the kids in Florida got reform, but that was for Florida only. Nationwide, we haven’t really seen any changes. Most people have become complacent.”

As Amanda Holpuch reported in The Guardian, Governor Rick Scott of Florida did pass a $400 million bill that tightened gun laws and raised the age of purchasing a firearm from 18 to 21.

Despite the massive number of students who supported the movement for gun reform last year, it seems as if momentum nationwide has slowed.

Senior Kyle Work said, “I feel like there was a large amount of people who were ready to help the cause to stop violence. As the year went on, people started to lose focus on it. I think that we should continue to advocate to stop these events because they are terrible, horrible atrocities.”

Students who were engaged and in the protests last year should continue to fight, even though the eye of the media isn’t focused on gun violence. If students only ever rally and demonstrate when people are dead, they will always lose to the gun lobby, which has the money to fight for gun possession all year long. The trend of media horror followed by silence doesn’t need to last forever. If the youth of the country continue to advocate for sensible gun reform, then the media must take notice.

While there is always a long road to travel before proposed policy becomes federal law, giving up is not an option. Students should organize, advocate and demonstrate for reasonable gun policy.

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