When my phone buzzed with an alert about the shooting in Parkland, I wasn’t shocked. I was heartbroken and angry, but not shocked. Appalling mass shootings in the US don’t completely dumbfound me anymore because of their frequency.
What did shock me were the students of Parkland. They are speaking out and actually causing waves across the nation. When nothing happened after the Newtown shooting, I resigned myself to thinking that nothing would ever happen. But these young Parkland activists have given me hope again, hope that there is a future that involves some kind of gun regulation.
When it comes to gun regulation, what we are really talking about is ‘common sense’ gun control. I’m not saying we need to rob anyone’s guns, but bump stocks should not be legal. And if you are a responsible gun owner, a thorough background check shouldn’t phase you. And a waiting period for gun ownership shouldn’t be perceived as the end freedom and the world as we know it. Raising the minimum age to buy a gun doesn’t seem crazy to me either; surely if you aren’t mature enough to drink alcohol, you aren’t mature enough to buy a gun.
With all this in mind, a recent Quinnipiac poll showed 66% of Americans support stricter gun laws. This is the highest percentage the university has ever recorded meaning the American public overwhelmingly support these measures. The tide is shifting. Yet no change has been made. American politicians are refusing to honour the wishes of those who elected them – the most ludicrous example being Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. He thoughtlessly argues ‘my skepticism about gun laws is criminals don’t follow the law’ and goes on to say ‘they don’t care what the law is, you can pass any law you want and criminals won’t follow it.’ Rubio has repeated this mantra after other mass shootings. I heard it after Las Vegas. I heard it after Parkland. But by that logic, we shouldn’t have any laws at all. If we subscribe to that idea, then we might as well throw out laws about theft and murder because criminals will do it anyway, so what’s the point, right?
Ultimately, the United States must ask itself what kind of society it wants to be. It seems as though we have accepted mass shootings as a kind of sacrifice in order to own as many guns as we want with as little hassle as possible. It is not worth it. The innocent people in the Pulse Nightclub mattered more than easy access to guns. The teenagers and teachers at Parkland mattered more than easy access to guns. And if you think that this conversation politicises their deaths, you’re missing the point. It’s about getting justice for their deaths, because without gun control this will happen again and again and again. To do nothing is to disrespect and ignore their lives and their deaths. And thanks to the passion of the Parkland student activists, they won’t be ignored anymore.