To Get Guns Out of Schools, It’s Up to the Kids

B-CC High seniors say students won't give up on demand for stricter gun control laws


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Editor’s Note: The following view is that of the writers and does not reflect the opinions of Bethesda Beat staff. 

In 1964, Jack Weinberg—one of the founding members of the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley who went on to become a noted labor and environmental activist—famously said, “Don’t trust anyone over 30.”

More than a half-century later, our high school friends have come to embrace a 2018 reboot of that iconic quote:

“Don’t trust anyone over 30 ... to end school shootings.”

We don’t say this flippantly, and we did not reach this conclusion lightly. A month ago, 17 of our brothers and sisters at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, were brutally murdered simply because they showed up at school. Since then, we have walked out of our school, joined protests, watched town hall meetings and speeches in Congress, and read countless op-eds. Gun violence and school safety have become the defining issue of our time—and of our lives.

We know—and are lucky to have—several members of Congress who are in our corner as we push to end school shootings once and for all. Many are right here in Maryland, like Sen. Chris Van Hollen and Rep. Jamie Raskin. Still, even as we appreciate and deeply respect these allies, a simple truth has become clear to us as this debate has unfolded:

No adult has any idea just how vulnerable and fearful we teenagers feel simply walking onto our school grounds every day.  

If they did, they would have put a stop to these atrocities a long time ago. Instead, in the nearly two decades of school shootings and mass gun violence that have followed Columbine, most of our congressional leaders have responded with useless thoughts, tepid prayers, tired clichés, banal tweets and empty promises.

Washington, D.C., has been holding moments of silence for the past 20 years while kids are getting gunned down in their classrooms.

Enough.

Most of us can’t vote yet. We don’t have seats on committees. We can’t approve or sign legislation.

But we have a voice. That voice has power. And the adults are going to finally listen to the kids.

Yes, we need more resources for mental health. Yes, our school security systems should be improved. Yes, movies and video games should not glorify violence.

But we are putting an end to the days when these proposed responses—important as they are—act as an appropriate substitute for meaningful actions on guns.

For too long, we’ve removed the word “ban” from our gun lexicon. But we don’t give a damn what the NRA thinks; we’re bringing it back.

We need to ban assault and military-style weapons.

We need to ban bump stocks and high-capacity magazines.

We need to ban anyone under the age of 21 from buying a gun.

We need to ban the gun show loophole and other holes in the background check system.

We need to ban anyone convicted of a felony, especially domestic violence and sexual assault, from purchasing or owning a gun.

We need to lift the ban on federal funding for research on gun violence.

This is a nationwide movement, designed by and for teenagers. It has already started. Hopefully, it will not end when high-profile students at Parkland graduate.

For our part, a group of us at Bethesda Chevy-Chase High School organized a panel on gun violence and school safety in Washington, D.C., featuring members of Congress and state and local health and education officials. The emphasis: what to do when the cameras get packed up and the media vans leave town.

In addition, we have written and designed a school assembly and discussion titled “Trigger Warnings”—an “Every 15 minutes” style approach to school shootings. You can contact us at mocatpopup.org to bring that assembly to a school near you. Soon, we’ll be marching on Washington, following in the footsteps of other young activists who paved the way for us and taught us what it means to fight for what you believe in.

We are emboldened by the efforts of the Parkland students. Our promise to them is that they are never alone. We are going to stand by their side long after the media trucks go home and the cable news talking heads move back to trivial things. And we will continue to speak for those who lost their lives and for their families who will never stop grieving.

Many of us are almost 18 years old. Soon, our powerful voices will be heard in elections booths. And every member of Congress more concerned about funding and support from the dangerous NRA than about our lives and the lives of our friends will hear us, loud and clear.

But we cannot adopt a “just you wait and see” approach. As teenagers, we have a voice with a particular resonance and reach. The adults failed to stop the Parkland shooting. But the kids are going to make sure that our horrific culture of mass school shootings ends now.

Amanu Huq, Talia Sulla and Yasmin Ranz-Lind are seniors at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Bethesda.

 

If you'd like to submit an opinion piece to be considered for publication in Bethesda Beat, please email us at editorial@bethesdamagazine.com.

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