Gun control discussion neglects to take student voice into account

Gun control discussion neglects to take student voice into account

I haven’t feared death in a long time. Death is imminent, I know this. I do, however, fear living because the lives around me can be taken at any moment.

Our generation has grown up in the aftermath of the Columbine High School massacre and thus we’ve never known a time without school shootings. We have become too well-acquainted with the actions of disturbed individuals. And though we’ve grown up in a time of senseless bloodshed, some adults would have us convinced that it is inevitable, that there is no inoculation for a disease we have yet to understand.

Understand, they say, that America’s gun culture is more important than life and your pursuit of happiness.

Understand, they say, that “adults make the laws.”

Understand, they say, that we are too young  to understand.

Never mind that we’ve seen students our age and younger suffer PTSD after witnessing death first hand. Pay no attention to all the research we’ve done in our history classes, all the trends we’ve studied in our government classes. We have no idea what we’re talking about.

Maybe what we don’t understand is why death has been packaged and sold as the right to protect oneself. Maybe what we don’t understand is why children have to die to protect that right. We may not understand, but what we do know is that America possesses 42 percent of the world’s civilian-owned guns while we are only 4.4 percent of the world’s population. We know that America has 29.7 homicides by firearm per one million people, six times as many as Canada and nearly 16 times as many as Germany. We know that there are more deaths when there are more guns as owning a gun doubles the risk of homicide and triples the risk of suicide.

The so-called gun culture of America was bought by the NRA for millions of dollars and emerged stronger after the expiration of the ban on assault weapons in 2004. After Sandy Hook, Orlando, and San Bernardino, we saw gun sales increase; while students across the country grieved for the victims and feared another mass shooting, gun owners feared their firearms would be taken away.

Fortunately for them, purchasing an AR-15 is easier than acquiring a driver’s license. Obtaining a driver’s license requires hours of online instruction, a written test, a road test and a probationary period. In 33 states, private sellers of AR-15s are not even required to perform any background checks or impose any waiting periods.

Lax gun laws and regulations are the product of NRA lobbying. In the 1980s, NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer introduced conceal-carry legislation that would be used as the gun policy model across state lines. Now, more than 16 million Americans own a concealed-carry permit. From a wide network of members, the NRA has been able to control Congress through fear tactics or coercion.

In opposition to the gun market, bulletproof apparel and accessories have been gaining tract and sales. Bullet proof panels are being sold with the purpose of fitting in a student’s backpack. The only defenses a student should be putting up during school are folders when taking a test.

Schools are also teaching their students how to confuse and temporarily stun an active shooter. Run Fight Hide, an instructional motto for how to survive a school shooting, has replaced school chants. All the things students should not have to know, are all the things they must know. A loss of innocence permeates the air. There is no going back because this is all we’ve known.

While most teenagers already struggle to conform to society’s ideals and practices as is, students are currently being subjected to the public’s unrelenting scrutiny. However, it is also the media’s focus on Parkland that confirms why this most-recent tragedy offers a different narrative. Fear and anger unite the Parkland victims, privilege propels them to speak out.

The Parkland survivors speak to all students in an appeal for gun legislation. Inspiring national walkouts and various protests, including their March for Life, they have prompted a nationwide conversation they refuse to let end without a solution.

Meanwhile, politicians who have been bought by the NRA are trying to sell the idea that students have no place engaging in political discussions. One Florida lawmaker, Rep. Elizabeth Porter, referred to the Parkland survivors as “children” in an attempt to discredit their emotions and opinions.

“We’ve been told we need to listen to the children and do what the children ask,” Porter said. “Are there any children on this floor? Are there any children making laws? No. The adults make the laws because we have the age. We have the wisdom. And we have the experience.”

Though teenagers have taken up the task of grieving and fighting for change at the same time, some politicians have deemed them too emotional and too ignorant to do so. The NRA can spend $12,675,270 in career contributions to current members of Congress to carry out their commands but teenagers aren’t mature enough to think on their own.

We are too young to understand the inner workings of politics but we are old enough to be shot in our classrooms as a result of it.

As times change, so too must the attitude on guns. None of these facts are new; what’s different this time is us. This is the fight of a generation. Our generation. After the 1960s, complacency among the American public became the status quo and now it’s up to our generation to renew the fight for our lives.