Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Gun Violence Protests Reflect Shift in US Society

JAMES CALABRESI ’20

STAFF WRITER

On Feb. 14, 2018, a mass shooting occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen people died and fourteen were wounded. The name of the shooter is easy to find, plastered over papers worldwide. The names of the victims- harder so. Alyssa Alhadeff, Scott Beigel, Martin Duque, Nicholas Dworet, Aaron Feis, Jaime Guttenberg, Chris Hixon, Luke Hoyer, Cara Loughran, Gina Montalto, Joaquin Oliver, Alaina Petty, Meadow Pollack, Helena Ramsay, Alex Schachter, Carmen Schentrup, Peter Wang. These are the children and teachers whose lives were stolen. These are the children the political right are willing to let die before they can forget a single gun. Since their passing, much has been said or alleged, movements have been started, speculation has been guessed ad infinitum, and the country is rocked by anti-gun headwinds that may rival those of Sandy Hook or Columbine in strength.

There have been 34 mass shootings across America since the start of 2018. How many more we will be forced to endure is unknown. However, at this rate the year will finish with 222. A mass shooting is defined as a confrontation that includes a firearm and the combined death or injury of four or more people. Shockingly, this rate of 34 mass shootings for every 56 days in 2018 thus far projects fewer mass shootings than 2017, when America’s second bloodiest year ever begot 346 mass shootings. Including mass shootings and other shooting incidents, an astronomical 90 Americans are shot every day.

Responding to the incident online were a host of TV pundits and small, YouTube-run shows. In the conversation that Trump and the political right wing of the country have started over arming teachers, the response from the left has been loud and morally piercing. Tweeting eight days after the shooting, @TimfromDa70s said, “Chris Kyle the greatest American sniper in military history was shot and killed when confronted by a “crazy guy” with a gun. So we just have to train the teachers a lil bit better than Chris Kyle.” Many educators took to their social media platforms at the suggestion, many posting they need classroom supplies desperately and that learning to fire a weapon so that they might have to fire it upon a student in a gunfight would be absurd.

One memorable reaction to the outrage includes a tweet by @KenKlippenstein who posted a picture of an Independent Article titled “Florida Lawmakers refuse to consider assault weapons ban despite call for tougher gun control laws” next to an Eyewitness News tweet reading “Proposed law would fine saggy pants wearers”. This tweet encapsulates the priorities that lawmakers in this country have: spending time considering a nonsensical law, while not fighting for universal background checks for all gun sales, which 90% of Americans support.

In preparation for the walkouts planned to protest gun laws, conservative outlets have called for colleges and universities to suspend students that attend the 17-minute walk out on March 14th. Conservatives seemingly think that the punishment of suspension is enough of a deterrent for students who live in fear on campuses all over the country from protesting a lack of common-sense gun laws. Seriously, the example of Australia, which implemented restrictions after a shooting killed 35 people in Port Arthur shows precisely that gun-laws save lives. A separate protest, also at 10 am, is scheduled for April 20th, the 19th anniversary of Columbine.

In response to these and other concerns, Harvard, MIT, and Yale have made clear that High School students walking out in solidarity with the movement will not be penalized in their college applications. Fortunately, Vice President of Enrollment and Student Success Andrew Perez tweeted a similar statement: “I would never punish students in the #Admissions process for standing up for what they believe in”. He has not reiterated the ACLU’s statement, which clarified that schools can punish their Undergraduate and Graduate students for skipping class, but can’t make the punishment harsher than if a student skipped class for any other reason. The statement, however is in a similar vein, and inspires some amount of hope. Certainly, the administration cannot curb the actions of its teachers in any way, meaning harsher punishments could happen. Hopefully the coming demonstrations and days of argument are peaceful and fortuitous. We have a lot to gain and only more deaths by gun to lose.

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