The survivors of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida have seized the gun control debate into their grasp. Since the shooting, David Hogg, Emma Gonzalez, and other students from MSD have appeared on all media platforms. Recently, they led the March For Our Lives in Washington D.C. and initiated the nationwide school walkout. They have been the voice of the students pushing for gun control reform. On the other end are some lesser known figures, chief among them Kyle Kashuv and Hunter Pollack, who hold viewpoints contradictory to their MSD counterparts. Kashuv has met with the President and members of Congress, along with Hunter and his father Andrew, and several other students at MSD. They have voiced their concerns over the gun reform pushed by many after the shooting occurred. With the two conflicting perspectives at hand, it is important to consider which side is currently having a greater positive impact, and whether either set of goals could have prevented the tragedy in Parkland.
Since the shooting, many students across the country have become more active in protests and political demonstrations, promoting legal changes and legislative action. These students, with substantial help from adults, organized the March For Our Lives, which took place in many American cities, with the survivors of the shooting speaking at the march held in the capital. Speakers called for stricter gun laws and blamed an inactive government for the tragedy, with some claiming Congress and the President had blood on their hands. While this was happening, and even beforehand, Kyle Kashuv was meeting with President Trump to discuss protecting schools, and Hunter Pollack, who lost a sibling in the shooting, went to Congress and had meetings with politicians on both sides of the aisle to come up with solutions to make schools safer.
After participation from students like Kashuv and Pollack, the Students, Teachers, and Officers Preventing School Violence Act of 2018, or the STOP School Violence Act of 2018, was signed into law on March 23, with the purpose being to increase public money for improved school safety procedures. Mr. Pollack also helped Governor Rick Scott of Florida and the Florida State Congress to pass the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, which had provisions to appropriate $400 million towards safety spending in schools, including the training of appointed and background checked armed school guardians.
Back on the other end, David Hogg has recently been tweeting about another walkout occuring today, Friday. This walkout was organized by the National School Walkout, or @schoolwalkoutUS on Twitter, and the group says it is to begin at 10 A.M. and end when school gets out in the afternoon. But for this event, the plan isn’t just for students to walk out of schools, but also for adults to leave work, under the idea that gun violence affects more than just students. This April 20 date is purposeful, as it marks the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting, which killed 13, and injured 21 others.
Kyle Kashuv also happens to be planning something today, April 20, though it is rather different in nature. Kyle explained, “Walking out during school hours is counterproductive. School is where we should be learning about our Constitution and our history so we can make a well-educated opinion on the gun debate. Walking out after school would be commendable, but this isn’t.” Instead of walking out, Kyle has set up a series of speakers who will begin live streaming starting at 10 A.M., to educate people and to discuss how to improve the protection of our populus. He has invited individuals in favor of gun control and against it to come and speak.
Individuals on both sides are clearly trying to make a difference and better the country, and they appear to have the best interest of the people at heart, but would any of it really have prevented the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School?
Many of the proposed plans will either be ineffective or already exist. David Hogg proposes stricter gun control laws, with things like background checks and bans on certain weapons to the public. To begin, background checks are already mandatory to purchase firearms in the United States. As for banning or limiting the sale of gun such as the AR-15 (where the “AR” stands for “Armalite Rifle” after the manufacturers and not “assault rifle” or “automatic rifle”) would not be very effective at deterring crime, as handguns are used in 19 times as many murders than rifles according to data form the Uniform Crime Reporting data from the FBI in 2016. Handguns were also used in around 8 times as many nonfatal crimes involving firearms that any other class of weapon according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey. The legal age to buy a handgun is also higher than that to buy rifles, at 21 rather than 18, when a CDC study found that a minimum of 500,000 lives are saved annually by legal firearm use, with the maximum reaching upwards of 3,000,000, not including the situations ended and lives potentially saved from an individual simply brandishing their concealed weapon.
The problem in the case of the Parkland shooting wasn’t the set of gun laws in the state or the country, but a failure of law enforcement. The FBI had been tipped off that Cruz was a threat to the school and the students there, but nothing was done to stop it on that side. Had they intervened, the shooting may have been prevented, with his guns legally taken away because he would no longer have been able to pass the background check required to purchase said weapons. Further, some of the blame has to be put on the Sheriff’s Department and his deputies. When police officers from Coral Springs arrived at the scene, less than three miles from their police station, they found, according to the officers, two deputies standing outside waiting to go inside. Had these deputies gone inside to try and locate and stop the shooter, some of the lives lost at MSD could have been saved.
Kashuv, on the other hand, is being more productive with his time and efforts, trying to sponsor and encourage conversation across the aisle and initiating a live stream to educate people on the options. He has already worked to get a law into place to try and prevent something like this from happening again in the future, and has met with Republicans and Democrats alike.
Whether you think that there should be stronger gun control or not, we have to be able to agree that our schools should be safe places for us to come develop as people and citizens of the United States, and not have to be in fear that our school could be next. And with this in mind as we approach the gun control debate, we must be willing to engage with viewpoints that do not necessarily agree with our own. Both sides, divided rather clearly between Mr. Hogg and Mr. Kashuv, deserve our time and consideration, not outright condemnation devoid of reasoning.
On Twitter @KyleKashuv, @davidhogg111, @schoolwalkoutUS