By Jack Georgis
It has been three weeks since the school shooting that resulted in 17 people killed, in Parkland, Fla. In those three weeks, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have done a lot to show that they want change, more than other shooting survivors have done previously. Students and faculty at Post are responding to these students’ activism, and debating on how likely they are to succeed.
The Parkland shooting marks the 18th in 2018 alone. In the aftermath, the survivors are speaking out. They have thrust the debate on gun control into the national spotlight and are keeping it there.
“I think the courage being shown by the Parkland students is honorable, they are truly making America proud. I do hope they are receiving guidance, as the current political reality in this area is increasingly disappointing,” Adam Hornbuckle, a senior political science major, said.
Many students across the campus are supportive of the Parkland survivors. “I think it is such a bold move. Considering they are only high school students that is to me, something that deserves so much respect,” Michelle Chan, a freshman broadcasting major, said.
The students of Parkland have given many speeches and statements to the press, rallied for support for gun reform, and also visited the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee to advocate for gun reform. They also forced a town hall hosted by CNN where the students and their family members got to ask Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Dana Loesch, a spokeswoman for the National Riffle Association (NRA) about their plans for gun reform.
Students also have further plans to continue the fight for change, including several walkouts with help from other major social justice platforms. Organizers from the Women’s March planned a school walk-out for March 14, at 10 a.m., and will last 17 minutes to represent the 17 lives lost as a result of the shooting. March 24 will be the “March For Our Lives” to Washington D.C. to advocate for change, planned by the students of Stoneman Douglas. On April 20, there is another high school walkout planned by the Network for Public Education; this date as it is the anniversary of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting.
“Public demonstrations are necessary to push through divisive legislation like gun control. Every demonstrator is a voter. Personally, I have long supported the Brady Campaign, which acts to prevent gun violence,” Hornbuckle said about the planned marches.
Chan is considering to participate in the walkouts. “It is very much a big step to take, even though that is really a great way to convey the message,” she said.
Whether or not this will amount to actual legislative change is another discussion. “I believe what they are doing is appropriate, there are after all 10 million AR-15’s owned or in circulation,” Dr. Michael Soupios, professor of political science, said. These plans are widely supported in a recent poll by POLITICO, with support for stricter gun laws among registered voters at 68 percent and 25 percent opposed.
When asked what was holding up the passage of these laws, Soupios said, “There is too much money. The NRA invests money in the campaigns of candidates and expects a favor in return, so nothing gets done. There is a difference between a public servant and a professional politician and right now we have too many professional politicians.”
The large volume of money involved in the campaigns is the main reason there is no legislative action. “Campaign finance reform is crucial to stopping the money, Citizens United vs. FEC (2010) was a mistake,” Soupios said. This case decided that corporations and individuals donating unlimited amounts of money, are protected by the first amendment.
Though stricter gun laws have been proposed, there is another proposal from President Donald Trump: arm teachers.
“I think that is crazy. As if we don’t already have enough failing school districts. That certainly won’t help. Also, that seems to convey the wrong message,” Chan said.
“Arming teachers is not a solution, it’s a joke,” Hornbuckle said. Though not everyone agrees with Chan and Hornbuckle. Soupios argues that certain teachers can be armed, with an exception. “Teachers or staff with military experience who are adept and trained in rearms, I’m okay with having guns, but not training teachers to do this. We don’t want to make elementary schools the OK corral,” he said.
The 2018 congressional midterm elections are approaching, and the students and their efforts may play a role in who gets seated into Congress. “I think it will be a major focus of the 2018 midterm elections, it is unacceptable that there is so much money and not proper background checking for gun owners,” Soupios said.
Advocating for something is not an easy task to undertake and is certainly not a short process. The students of Parkland show passion for conveying change and have garnered a great deal of support for their cause. As the 2018 midterm elections approach, we will see just how successful the students are in making the gun control debate an important topic in America.