Mar 5, 2018
After a gunman opened fire in their school, killing 17, students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida did something unusual: they did not just mourn their lost friends and teachers; they demanded that something be done. They got angry. And they took that anger to the streets and the state capitol, sparking a nationwide debate on school shootings and gun violence.
Their demonstrations spurred young people across the country to take action, a march on their state capitols and descend on Washington, D.C. by the thousands. A nationwide series of demonstrations is planned for March 24.
What all these students are asking for is perfectly reasonable: to feel safe in their own schools! They are demanding that assault rifles be taken off the market and that systems be put in place to detect prospective school shooters before they shoot. They have every right to demand these and other protections.
The Parkland students and those who join them are already finding that even very minor regulations are hard to pass in a country that prioritizes profit above all else. Assault rifles are the product of the extremely profitable weapons industry, military and domestic. When the U.S. is not carrying out wars itself, it arms and supplies local combatants. War is big business for the U.S., and it’s part of the fabric of American society. We’re all flooded with a huge dose of militarism every single day. People like Nikolas Cruz, the Parkland shooter, are created by this society. The fact that they can so easily find a gun is only the last step in that process.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) is the primary lobbyist for the gun manufacturing industry, which has a vested interest in keeping things the way they are. Selling assault rifles to the general public is a very lucrative business, after all. The NRA actively mobilizes to support or attack politicians depending on their position on guns.
Republicans are most likely to refuse to pass gun legislation for this and other reasons. But Democrats are little better, since most focus on gun control, ignoring all the other social ills that create the problem.
At this moment, the students are focusing on gun violence and gun regulation. But guns are only the beginning of the equation if the students’ goal is to feel safe and secure. Students across the country are well aware of all that is wrong with their schools, what is causing the stress, confusion and demoralization and even suicide, of other young people like themselves. They can see the lack of support systems in schools and neighborhoods. If some have gotten fed up and have started demanding that something be done about guns today, others can start demanding something be done about the lack of resources in their schools, or the lack of job prospects in their future, or the lack of food on their families’ tables, or the lack of a future they can look forward to, tomorrow.
The students have shown that they see the lies that they’re told about what can and can’t be done. They may learn very quickly that voting is not what changes things. U.S. capitalism constitutes a web in which all the problems are connected to each other. A new system needs to be fought for and put in place, a system not for profit – a system built to protect and nurture human life.