In the wake of yet another school shooting in the United States, is gun control around the corner?
On February 14, Nikolas Cruz walked onto the grounds of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida and opened fire. The school shooting only lasted a few minutes, leaving 17 people dead, others injured, and the rest of the school to be evacuated room by room. It has been declared one of the deadliest school shootings since 2012 in the United States, and there have already been more school shooting incidents since.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting is being hailed as different. This time, the survivors have themselves started a protest movement to prevent more school shootings. Already, they’ve protested at Florida’s capital Tallahassee, taken to social media with the hashtag #NeverAgain and have even caused some retailers to boycott the NRA. But is it going to be enough to get gun reform or to topple the NRA?
President Trump has already stated he might change the age for buying a gun up to 21, address mental health issues and prohibit the sales of bump stocks. But he also has received significant funding from the NRA and has the generally pro-gun Republican party to contend with. Furthermore, the president’s word isn’t incredibly reliable these days given he could tweet a curveball policy change on gun laws at 2am if he felt like it.
There is however hope that companies boycotting the NRA or refusing to sell guns at their stores will help put some pressure on gun reform laws. While corporations like Walmart do have sway if they change the age required to buy guns in store, airlines like Delta are already facing the consequences of boycotting the NRA by losing tax exemptions in Georgia. Not to mention boycotting the NRA and refusing to sell guns doesn’t get rid of the guns already purchased and won’t be very effective unless most companies are following suit.
Some of the alternative solutions seem to be promising as well, like having more mental health support. While mental health issues do play a role in some school shootings, it is one factor among many that causes these tragedies. Notably, mental health issues are often used as the scapegoat justifying why white males are school shooters, while in turn people of colour and other minorities are immediately labelled terrorists or criminals instead.
Arming teachers isn’t really a viable solution either. It’s not just a matter of getting firearm training; it’s a matter of potentially having to shoot your own student and making schools more like prisons than places of instruction. It also asks teachers and administrators to take on another role in an education system where some schools have barely enough funding to keep the buildings from falling down. Not to mention giving teachers guns seems like an underhanded way to make double the profits from gun sales – by selling to the teachers and potential school shooters.
What about implementing stricter gun laws, more extensive background checks or requiring firearm education before you can purchase one? Unfortunately, the NRA stills holds a considerable amount of lobbying power in the United States, especially at a time of great political cleavages. There is a ray of hope that in the upcoming midterm elections, more Democrats will be elected and that they can push through stricter gun control laws.
Gun control in the United States remains a complex issue with many proposed solutions that will take years to implement, on any political level. But now, politicians will have to contend with younger generations savvy with social media, with access to information and that grew up in fear of their school being the next victim of a school shooting. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting and subsequent protests are a tipping point to have these young voices push politicians to act and could inspire change.
So, to the outstanding young Americans protesting to get gun reform, there’s a long road ahead. Despite that, know that you have already brought about change in your actions. One day, Washington might realize that it is inexcusable to support a system that threatens the lives of youth trying to get an education.