Mind and Body

The kids are alright

We adults need to listen to these kids; they are smart, they are well informed, and they are organized

Image courtesy of YouTube video by The Guardian

Emma Gonzalez, a survivor of the Parkland, Florida, high school shooting, calling bullshit at a recent rally.

By Toby Simon
Posted 2/26/18
The response by high school students to the mass shooting at their high school in Florida has changed the political conversation around gun control, in a remarkable shifting of tectonic plates in American politics.
Will the passion and forthrightness of students who survived the Florida school shooting to call bullshit on the NRA and elected officials such as Sen. Marco Rubio and President Donald Trump be enough to change the status quo? How will the R.I. General Assembly respond to the legislation being proposed by Sen. Joshua Miller and Rep. Jason Knight to ban assault weapons in Rhode Island? Will research under new state compact announced between Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut look at the number of suicides by firearms? And, the medical costs of gun violence, and who pays for it? What is the connection between gun violence and domestic violence in Rhode Island?
How refreshing it was to see high school students stand up and question politicians, with a kind of brutal honesty that is so often missing from our current political and news environment. Even the attempts by trolls to falsely portray the student protesters as “actors” has been unable to gain traction, even though the trolls appear to be supported by Russian bots. Bravo to Twitter for cutting off many of those accounts.
These young students have a very different vision of what will make America great again, and they appear willing to translate that vision into what occurs at the ballot box. They are teaching their parents well.

PROVIDENCE – Another week, another school shooting. I’ve lost track of all the places within the past five years where young lives have been lost as a result of gun violence.

And, like so many of us, we become more and more frustrated with the typical response from some elected officials who send “thoughts and prayers” and an admonishment that “now is not the time to talk about gun policies.”

So we wait for the time when they will talk about it and nothing gets done. If anything, laws that give gun owners more opportunities and liberties to kill, are introduced and enacted. Think bump stocks, allowing guns on college campuses, reduced background checks, silencers on rifles.

When many of these elected officials are ready to talk about the senseless school, church, movie theater, nightclub and concert shootings, they only want to talk about mental health.

They seem blind and deaf to the fact that many countries in the world have the same number of individuals with a diagnosed mental health illness, yet these countries don’t have anywhere near the number of gun deaths. And, that for the most part, people living with a mental illness are not violent people.

A bum rap
In everyone’s desire to blame someone for these premature and horrific deaths, parents have been getting a bum rap, being accused of not raising their kids the right way. Here’s a news flash: high school is hard. Teenagers are not fully formed. Developmentally they are still growing and evolving and struggling. Their degree of emotional intelligence varies. Issues around impulse control, acting out and risk taking are omnipresent. It’s not an easy time in the best of circumstances.

Let’s stop blaming the parents and recognize that tighter regulations around gun sales are actually warranted, given all we know about adolescent development.

As it turns out, nearly 70 percent of Americans, regardless of political party, are in favor of more restrictive gun laws including the banning of assault weapons. [The most recent polling puts that figure at 97 percent.]

The NRA doesn’t own us

So we become even more exasperated with our elected officials as well as the National Rifle Association, who apparently owns many of our senators and representatives.

When 20 six- and seven-year-olds were gunned down five years ago at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Conn., we thought we would finally see change. How could anyone with a pulse not want to do something following this American tragedy?

We thought out of this unimaginable horror our elected officials would introduce and pass legislature that did something to make it more difficult to buy weapons: increased background checks, three-day waiting period before purchasing a gun, banning the sale of weapons at gun shows, linking the no-fly list with an inability to buy a gun, changing the age requirements, and banning assault weapons for civilians.

Yet on the national level, nothing of real consequence took place following Newtown.

Connecticut was of course the exception. The state set out to draft some of the toughest gun measures in the country and was largely successful.

The killing of 14 high school students and three staff at the Parkland school may finally result in some national action. This time the survivors of the shooting are leading a nationwide discussion and political action.

Recently they announced that they will lead a nationwide demonstration on March 24th called “March For Our Lives.” They said they expect the demonstration to take place in every major city in the country. What’s the difference this time?

As Cameron Kasky, an 11th-grader explained: “We are going to be marching together as students, begging for our lives.” His message to the adults is that the young people whose lives are on the line feel neglected. Simply put, Kasky said, “At this point, you are either with us or against us.”

These students will be targeting the politicians who receive financial support from the NRA. They want to shift the paradigm so that there will be a badge of shame for any politician who accepts money from the NRA.

Calling bullshit
Who can forget Emma Gonzalez, a senior at the Marjorie Stoneham Douglas High School? She got the nation’s attention three days following the massacre at her school when she delivered remarks at a rally in Fort Lauderdale. Her speech ended with a bristling rebuke of our elected officials.

“The people in the government who were voted into power are lying to us. And us kids seem to be the only ones who notice,” she said. “Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have been done to prevent this, we call BS. They say tougher guns laws do not decrease gun violence. We call BS. They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. We call BS. They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars. We call BS. They say no laws could have prevented the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred. We call BS. That us kids don’t know what we’re talking about, that we’re too young to understand how the government works, we call BS.”

Students from the Washington, D.C., area held a protest outside the White House on Monday, Feb. 19, Presidents Day. The protest had been organized by a group called “Teens For Gun Reform.” Seventeen students lay on the ground for three minutes in front of the White House. The three minutes was to represent the amount of time it took for the shooter in Parkland to buy an AR-15 rifle.

We adults need to listen to these kids. They are smart, they are well informed, and they are organized. They are angry – with good reason – at the lack of change in our gun laws and policies. They want and deserve better.

New leaders have risen. And they vote. The kids are alright.

Editor's note: Gov. Gina Raimondo announced that she would sign an executive order on Monday, Feb. 26, establishing what is known as a "red flag" policy addressing gun violence in Rhode Island. At the same time, Raimondo applauded the introduction of "red flag" legislation in the R.I. General Assembly and urged the legsilature to take swift action to pass it to ensure that the protections to help prevent gun violence and gun suicides are in place permanently.


No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment

© convergenceri.com | subscribe | contact us | report problem | About | Advertise

powered by creative circle media solutions

Join the conversation

Want to get ConvergenceRI
in your inbox every Monday?

Type of subscription (choose one):

We will contact you with subscription details.

Thank you for subscribing!

We will contact you shortly with subscription details.