What others say: Young people take the lead on gun debate

Wednesday, students in schools around Lane County joined others across the country in a peaceful protest to demand action to end gun violence.

The protest began at 10 a.m. It lasted 17 minutes — one minute for each of the 17 students and adults killed one month ago at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Lakeland, Florida — the latest in a too-long list of school shootings.

The students have a right to be heard.

Adults have failed them and will continue to fail them each and every day that passes without effective gun safety measures.

Students are tired of live shooter drills. Tired of looking around their classrooms to see what they could use as a weapon to try to defend themselves against a shooter. Tired of plotting potential escape routes from a classroom. Tired of seeing pictures of students like themselves, bloodied and terrified, fleeing from a school shooter. Tired of reading about the latest school shooting and wondering if it could happen, if it will happen, at their school. Tired of seeing the fear in their parents’ eyes, and feeling the hollow in the pit of their stomachs each time there is another school shooting.

There is no comfort to be found in thinking “It can’t happen here.” They know it can.

Twenty years ago, Thurston High School was the site of a school shooting; two students were killed, 25 wounded. A great many people still living in the community were there, or have friends or family members or co-workers who were there.

Two-and-a-half years ago, a shooting at Umpqua Community College left 10 dead and eight injured. A great many people here grew up in Roseburg, went to UCC or know someone who did, including those who knew one or more of the victims.

After each school shooting, people in communities all across the country grieve and shake their heads and think: This will be the one that prompts our leaders to do something. They will do something not just to end the mass school shootings that make headlines across the country, but the deaths, both accidental and deliberate, that generate only a few lines of type in the local newspaper.

But it has never happened, not even when the deaths included 20 tiny 6- and 7-year-olds at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

Young people have grown tired of waiting for adults to do something. They are tired of “thoughts and prayers.” They are tired of adults — including their president and their elected representatives — who promise to do something and then never do.

So they are leading the way, led themselves by the students of Lakeland, Florida, who refuse to accept the platitudes that are poured out like oil after every school shooting.

They are holding their president and their elected representatives responsible.

They are pointing out the easy availability of weapons and accessories whose defining characteristic is the ability to kill many people quickly, the gaping loopholes in gun laws that are supposed to protect the public, and the outsized influence of the National Rifle Association on elected officials.

They “call b.s.,” in the words of Douglas High School student Emma Gonzalez, on the argument that the Second Amendment precludes any and all laws designed to stop senseless massacres.

They are using the rights guaranteed to them under another amendment, the first, to make their case. They are leading the way, and they are not going to go away.

Adults, including elected officials, can either follow or get out of the way.

—The Register-Guard, March 14, 2018

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