By Blake Bouza
The first words spoken in this sort of thing are always really hard, so I’ll let David Hogg, a senior and student journalist at Parkland High School, do it:
This is not just another mass shooting. No shooting is just another mass shooting. This needs to be a turning point. This shooting was the result of a number of situations and individuals, but action can still and should still be taken to prevent something like this from happening.
“People in Congress, people in state legislatures, just lawmakers in general, need to stand up and not let these political divisions prevent them from saving children’s lives. Cause this can happen and it will happen again if they just make false promises and don’t take action. Because ideas without action remain ideas, and when that happens, children die.”
This is a 17-year-old young man whose life is now divided into two distinct halves: before the school shooting he and his 14-year-old sister had to live through on Feb. 14, 2018 and after it.
This shooting struck close to home. My teenage cousins live in Weston, Florida, not twenty minutes from Parkland, and go to high school only ten minutes from there.
When I heard about the shootings, I panicked but soon found out they were safe and do not attend Parkland High.
I asked my cousin, Brandon Abin, about that day, seeking insight. He knows people that go to Parkland. His girlfriend lost a friend to the shooting. His school was evacuated as soon as the news about the shooting came out.
“It was actually really scary,” said Abin. “You always hear about these things happening in other communities but never imagine it coming to yours.”
Abin said for the rest of the week his school was on lockdown. Students were not allowed in the hallways during class, and were not allowed outside the cafeteria during lunch. Security was added, and police officers patrolled the campus.
I have a friend, Olivia Laskowski, doing an internship in Australia right now.
“Living in a country where the gun control debate was settled in 1989 is astounding. Australians can’t believe we still let this happen and they accept gun death in America as a fact of what our country is about,” she said.
I’ve heard the same rhetoric about people having a higher chance of dying by choking on improperly chewed food. I’ve heard the same thing about obesity, like State Senator Dennis Baxley, who likened gun restrictions to imposing limits on forks and spoons.
Here is the issue with that talk that should die: a troubled person isn’t forcing you to choke and die. No one is forcing you to eat as much food as you do. And it certainly is not happening en masse.
Senator Baxley also said that the focus needs to be on school safety. What about the Aurora shootings in 2012? Or the Chattanooga shootings in 2015?
Some will then say it’s a mental health issue, but per capita, the USA has the same amount of mental illness as Canada, the UK or Australia, according to the World Health Organization. We largely have the same medications in all these countries as well.
Yet there is one major, obvious difference between our country and those in the context of our discussion today: a significant lack of mass shootings in comparison to our own.
Don’t mistake me or the title of this op-ed. I believe in the power of prayer. I believe in it so much that I will never own a gun. I believe that owning a gun will not change the outcome of whether or not my time has come, because when I go is not for me to decide. I do not hold my life in such esteem that I would be willing to kill another person to protect my own.
Our fellow human beings require more than my prayers, though they have them. They need us to vote in people who will actually take a hard line on gun reform – because a mental health reform is even longer in coming. Mental illness is, quite unfortunately, a constant reality of mankind. Gun violence does not need to be.
Evil men will do evil deeds regardless of the tools available to them, no one will dispute that. Sometimes it can be accepting money from the wrong people/organization, and often is the mass slaughter of our brothers and sisters. It should not be the point that settles an argument – it should spark a call to action.
I’m not even saying anything super radical should happen. Let’s examine for a moment the fact that this troubled man obtained his assault rifle legally. Let’s examine how many of the other mass shootings were committed by weapons that were obtained legally.
If this minor did not have the option available to him of buying an assault rifle that was a catalyst to acting out his evil deed, would the shooting have been accomplished in the first place?
He more than likely would not have had the resources or means to obtain his weapon on the black market.
And so with the temptation of living out his dark imaginings revoked, perhaps he would have sought out help?
I obviously cannot say for certain, but I don’t think anyone coming out of the Valentine’s Day Massacre would say nothing needs to change. I’m so sick of calling for change, actually. But I’m sick of seeing nothing done. I’m sick of being told that my generation can’t change, when that does not seem to be the case at all.
I know why we are so pro-gun in our culture: the Second Amendment stipulated that we be allowed to bear arms in case the government try to take over.
Now I ask, in a world where the government has heat-seeking drones, tanks and weapons that can mow down dozens at once – will your one AR-15 really matter? We can discuss the merits of guerilla warfare at another time, but I make my point.
Oppressive governments are frequent throughout history, correct. Both sides of my family spent significant portions of their lives fleeing or recovering from living under one through the latter half of the 20th Century.
At what point do we address the very real, present problems of today and stop preparing for some hypothetical, far off problem of a government take over?
If we as a republic have allowed ourselves to get to the point of a government take over being a real threat and allowed the people we chose to be our mouthpieces in legislature to fail us, is that not on us?
Are there not other, more significant laws in our Constitution that should curb that before it ever becomes a reality, and not just the Second Amendment?
Honestly I am not here to dictate what should happen. I’m a dumb kid with a platform. I will not pretend to be an informed individual on the ins and outs of the hold of the NRA, the politicians who receive money from the organization and gun reform. I do not really know what that would look like, to be honest.
But maybe, just maybe, we can at least look at the rules that allow a child to buy an assault weapon before he is old enough to drink.
I close out with another quote from a survivor of the Parkland shootings, Isabelle Robinson:
“This shouldn’t be a fight between two different parties. This should be a coming together where we all realize that something is wrong. And even if we disagree on the way to fix it, we all just need to talk about it and stop being angry and stop slandering other people because that doesn’t help anyone. And that’s why people die, because we just can’t get along.”