Editorial: Guns spark a new student movement — and a fight for their lives

Fifty years ago, in 1968, student protests rocked the Vietnam War debate, and were eventually credited with turning public sentiment against the war.

For young people, particularly young men, their very lives were at stake with the instituted military draft sending millions to Southeast Asia. In the end, more than 58,000 Americans lost their lives in the war.

The number of deaths from gun violence makes that number look tiny. According to a study by Politifact, there were more than 1.5 million firearm deaths between 1968 and 2015. The U.S. Department of Justice and the Council on Foreign Affairs estimated that 11,385 people died from firearms incidents on average in the United States each year between 2001 and 2011. That’s more than 100,000 deaths in that decade alone.

For children of all genders, that’s a pretty scary statistic, especially when an incident like the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, reminds them that they’re on the front lines of this fight.

A 2017 study in the Pediatrics journal found that about 1,300 children died from gunshots and 6,000 more were wounded by guns each year from 2012 to 2014. Of those killed, 53 percent were homicides and another 38 percent were suicides.

Students are activating again and starting to realize that their lives do depend on this gun control movement, just as their grandparents realized with their protests of the Vietnam War.

Meanwhile, of course, rich and powerful special interests including the National Rifle Association are mobilizing as they always do to block any meaningful gun reform and are in fact playing offense by advocating for more guns in places like schools.

Rather than accept gun control, the NRA and the Congressmen and legislators they pay off with fat campaign contributions try to steer the debate to mental health issues, even though statistics show those with mental health issues are far more often the victims of violence than the perpetrators.

But here are a few things to add to that discussion.

  • If a person believes that it is okay to beat their spouse, children, significant other, etc…, that person has a mental condition that should render them ineligible to own or use firearms.
  • If a person sees the damage that was wrought through the use of a bump stock in Las Vegas, where 58 were killed and nearly 500 wounded, and still believes such devices should be on the market, that person has a mental condition that should render them ineligible to own or use firearms.
  • If a person sees the devastation to schools, churches, movie theaters, malls, airports, and other public places wrought by semi-automatic weapons, including the AR-15, and large ammunition clips, and believes those weapons should be the right of all citizens to carry, that person has a mental condition that should render them ineligible to own or use firearms.

The vocal and wealthy NRA has stymied debate on guns in the past, but it is looking like public sentiment is turning against them. I was surprised to learn that several big-name companies, including Enterprise Rent-a-Car, United Airlines, Delta, and MetLife have ended their affiliation with the NRA in the past couple of weeks.

The truth is that there aren’t very many good arguments to counter a mobilized movement of students who say they are through with being shot at in their schools.

We’ve been through many gun debates, particularly in recent years, that have gone nowhere. But these young people are bringing a new hope that this time around there will be results, or electoral consequences.

Dave Eisenstadter can be reached at deisen@valleyadvocate.com.

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