Today’s March for Our Lives could be tipping point for US
Fifty years ago this spring, American students mostly of college age mobilized opposition to the War in Vietnam in historically massive numbers. Their street marches and class walkouts ignited a larger wave of opposition that ultimately led this nation to end its involvement in a conflict that claimed more than 65,000 young American lives.
Fifty years later, students mostly of high-school age today are mobilizing amazingly large crowds of demonstrators against gun violence that each year claims 30,000 lives in this country. This afternoon, contingents of young people and their supporters of all ages are gathering in Washington, D.C., Youngstown and cities across the nation for what’s billed as “The March for Our Lives.”
It is a movement very short in the making but very long overdue.
The movement ignited last month on Valentine’s Day, when a disturbed young man entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and sprayed rounds of bullets on anyone and everyone in his path. In total, 17 people, including 14 students, were killed and 17 others wounded in the slaughter, ranking it among the most deadly mass shootings in U.S. history.
But unlike any of the hundreds of school shootings that have terrorized public education in this nation since the assault in Columbine, Colo., 19 years ago, the student body of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High reacted with speed, passion and courage to shout out to this nation: Enough is enough.
Several of the MSD High survivors immediately organized a group called Never Again MSD. The group was created on social media with the hashtag #NeverAgain and began planning activism inspired in part by the momentum created by the #MeToo anti-sexual harassment movement and the 2017 Women’s March.
With articulate and passionate leaders that include MSD students Emma Gonzales and David Hogg, the group demands legislative action to help prevent senseless school shootings and gun violence. It is publicly calling out state and federal lawmakers who resist commonsense reforms in deference to the large political contributions they receive from the National Rifle Association.
In Washington and about 870 other rallies and events in the world today, their message to leaders three or four times their age will resonate loudly and forcefully: Implement stricter background checks for gun purchases, raise the minimum age for firearms purchases to 21, ban the sale of assault rifles and bump stocks to civilians.
Those and other initiatives hold potential as deterrents to lessen the scope of firearms carnage in the nation that many progressive leaders and legislators have been seeking for months and years. Thus far, they’ve gone over like a lead balloon.
The momentum created today may at last provide the cohesion and energy needed to alter the nation’s lethargic course on gun violence.
We suspect that hundreds of thousands of adults will join the marches today as well. After all, a majority of Americans of all ages share a strong bond with the student activists.
According to a poll released Feb. 20 by Quinnipiac University, about 66 percent of Americans support stricter gun laws, 67 percent support a ban on the sale of assault weapons and 83 percent favor a mandatory waiting period for all gun purchases. Those results reflect the absolute highest levels of support for various forms of gun control ever recorded in the history of the respected private polling organization.
The students and their supporters, however, are well aware of those who would seek to belittle them and brand them as radicals seeking to dismantle the Bill of Rights. But the Never Again movement in no way seeks to trample on the legitimate Second Amendment rights of Americans to legally and responsibly purchase and own firearms. They seek only to work to ensure such weapons of mass destruction do not fall into far too many wrong hands far too easily.
We hope the steps taken in today’s marches will lead to a serious national conversation and action on responsible and constitutional reforms. Much like their counterparts 50 years ago who ignited a spark to extinguish the Vietnam War, today’s throngs of ardent youthful marchers may very well light a fire under our nation’s leaders to at last take their pleas seriously to slash the shamefully high human toll of indiscriminate gun violence in our country.