Yesterday, students across the nation walked out of their classrooms and for 17 minutes honored the students and teachers killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., one month ago. With the Florida students leading the way, young people around the country are protesting the failure of those in government, the adults who are supposed to protect them and our country, to do anything meaningful about gun violence.
This week President Trump announced plans to strengthen gun purchase background checks and encourage states to promote the arming of teachers. Nowhere in his plan were his previous expressed support for raising the age for purchasing semi-automatic weapons, like the one used in Parkland. After calling out legislators for being afraid of the NRA, Trump himself caved to the powerful gun lobby.
This is not acceptable, and we hope everyone who feels that way, including the loud voices of the Parkland students, make their displeasure heard at the local, state and federal levels. No matter what anyone says, there are few valid reasons for the average person to own an AR-15 or other semi-automatic weapon; those who can demonstrate a need – a rancher, say – could obtain a special permit, but these killing machines need to be taken off the general market. When they were outlawed for a decade, mass shootings dropped; it's true that handguns kill more Americans, but handguns don't kill a high number of Americans all at once. That's the only reason semi-automatic “long guns” exist. They should be banned.
More needs to be done; police need the authority to remove weapons from those known to be a danger, and extreme vetting – the sort of process Trump wants to apply to immigrants – should be applied to gun background checks, since more Americans with legal guns than immigrants kill their fellow citizens. Arming teachers is a flat-out dumb idea that almost all teachers oppose; providing money to help secure schools – with bullet-proof doors, as Chatham Police Chief Mark Pawlina has suggested – makes sense, but the minuscule amounts batted around by the administration would be less than a drop in the bucket.
The situation is a classic version of The Emperor's New Clothes. Young people can see that the the NRA is pulling the strings on the legislators who are supposed to protect them, and they're calling them out. We should all join the chorus. The NRA needs to be emasculated, and the right of citizens of all ages not to live in fear needs to trump the right to own a gun at all costs.