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Opinion

School shootings aren’t a problem that will go away without legislation

Lauren A. Simenson

February 21, 2018

To almost no-one’s surprise, another mass shooting has torn through another American school. This time it was Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Seventeen people, with a mix of students and faculty, lost their lives on Valentine’s Day to shooter Nikolas Cruz. He was armed with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

I say “to almost no-one’s surprise” because school shootings are now commonplace in our society. The Parkland school shooting is the 17th school gunfire incident since the beginning of 2018 according to the fact-checking site Snopes.com.

What perhaps makes this particular school shooting unique is the activism of the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Only someone who has been hiding under a rock has not heard student Emma Gonzalez’s rousing speech calling for a change to gun policy.

Gonzalez also called out politicians who receive money from the National Rifle Association in a speech she made in front of the Federal Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. She said, “We are going to be the kids you read about in textbooks. Not because we’re going to be another statistic about mass shooting in America … we are going to be the last mass shooting.”

I wish Gonzalez were right. In reality, I just have a difficult time believing that anything will change. The shootings and deaths of elementary children at Sandy Hook Elementary School and a previous Florida mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub did not even incite change in gun policy or in our second-amendment rights. I am not optimistic about any kind of affirmative action being taken against assault rifles or for any kind of gun control to take place in the the aftermath of the Parkland, Fla., mass shooting.

And as it turns out, this pessimistic view I find myself with is not totally unfounded. The New York Times on Tuesday of this week reported that the Florida state House, which is currently a republican majority, decided to reject a ban on semiautomatic guns and large capacity magazines. This decision was announced in front of some of the survivors of the recent Parkland school shooting, many of whom had just come from funerals of their classmates.

While change is not being made to legislation, change is coming. Students are organizing lie-ins and marches across the country in protest. They are gaining support from parents and community members who have had enough of children dying.

The only people who seem to see these continual mass school shootings as “no problem” are our government representatives. And why would they be bothered with regulating gun laws when the get well rewarded for their lack of action by the NRA?

How long can this lack of action and lack of empathy by Congress and lawmakers last? How long will it take before Congress and our elected representatives realize that the kids that they are dismissing today will be the voters of tomorrow?

Adults find it easy to dismiss kids – just look how easy it was for the Florida state House to come to a decision to do nothing to regulate semi-automatic rifles even after the impassioned testimony from survivors of the Parkland school shooting.

These teenage activists will not be dismissed, however. They have risen from the horrors of the Parkland school shooting and are “kids” no longer. They have seen and survived a school shooting and are a force to be reckoned with. They have the support of most of the United States behind them.

Lauren Simenson is a student at UW-River Falls.

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