Young voices get­ting louder in gun de­bate

The Times Herald (Norristown, PA) - - OPINION -

The voices are get­ting louder. This week they will build once again.

They are the voices of young peo­ple, tired of hav­ing tar­gets on their backs.

Stu­dents here in the re­gion and across the coun­try plan to walk out of school Wed­nes­day, the one-month an­niver­sary of the lat­est mass school shoot­ing. This time it was in Park­land, Fla.

A clearly trou­bled young man who had been ex­pelled from the school calmly walked back in on Feb. 14, Valen­tine’s Day, and started shoot­ing.

Be­fore he fled, 17 peo­ple – most of them stu­dents – were dead.

It’s not the first time we’ve been down this road.

Young peo­ple are hop­ing it will be the last. And they are tak­ing ac­tion to that ef­fect.

Wed­nes­day’s walk­out will be fol­lowed by a mas­sive youth march on Washington, D.C., on March 24. It is be­ing called the March for Our Lives.

Stu­dents and staff in this re­gion are tak­ing part in Wed­nes­day’s ac­tion to pay their re­spects to the stu­dents and staff who lost their lives inside Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School.

The echoes from the gun­fire inside the school had barely stilled when the re­ver­ber­a­tions rang out across the coun­try.

Far from the numb­ing dis­be­lief and si­lence that set­tled in af­ter Sandy Hook – a re­sult of the un­easy ac­knowl­edge­ment that some­one could ac­tu­ally walk into an el­e­men­tary school and open fire on in­no­cent chil­dren – this time the lat­est wave of vic­tims are fight­ing back.

Young peo­ple are rais­ing their voices – and tak­ing ac­tion.

They drove more than 400 miles to con­verge on the state cap­i­tal in Tal­la­hasee to push for changes in gun laws.

Last week their ac­tions brought re­sults, with the Florida Leg­is­la­ture, which had ini­tially re­jected changes in gun laws, en­act­ing tough new leg­is­la­tion.

The new Florida law raises the age limit to buy a gun from 18 to 21.

It also cre­ates a “guardian” pro­gram that en­ables teach­ers and other school em­ploy­ees to carry guns.

It al­ready has sparked a law­suit from the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion, say­ing it vi­o­lates Sec­ond Amend­ment rights.

Stu­dents also trav­eled to Washington, D.C., where they sat in the White House with President Trump and gave heart-rend­ing tes­ti­mony – not only to what hap­pened in their school – but also to what can and should be done to make sure this re­cur­ring Amer­i­can night­mare does not oc­cur again.

To­mor­row, that move­ment goes na­tion­wide.

Stu­dents plan to walk out of school and ob­serve 17 min­utes of si­lence - one minute for each Park­land vic­tim.

For the most part, ad­min­is­tra­tions and su­per­in­ten­dents have been sup­port­ive. Most of the events are be­ing re­stricted to stu­dents and staff, with no op­tion for the pub­lic to join the protests.

Many stu­dents at­tended a plan­ning ses­sion March 5 hosted by the anti-gun vi­o­lence group Delco United for Sen­si­ble Gun Pol­icy.

Strath Haven stu­dent Max Carp said he was in­spired by the ac­tions taken in the wake of the lat­est shoot­ing by his fel­low stu­dents in Florida.

“See­ing (Mar­jory Dou­glas Stone­man) stu­dents and how they can have hope made me feel that it would be self­ish for me not to have hope and get ac­tive,” he said.

Wed­nes­day’s walk­out will be fol­lowed by the march on Washington lit­tle more than a week later, on March 24.

Sim­i­lar marches are be­ing held across the coun­try, in­clud­ing ones planned for Philadel­phia and the sub­urbs.

The hor­ror of school shoot­ings – seared into our con­scious­ness by the names of Columbine, Vir­ginia Tech, Sandy Hook and Park­land – is matched only by the hor­ror that they keep hap­pen­ing.

Now, young peo­ple, the ones who find them­selves cowering in clos­ets, un­der desks and inside locked class­rooms as the worst imag­in­able kind of may­hem is un­leashed on their schools, are say­ing, “enough.”

They are rais­ing their voices – and tak­ing ac­tion – to in­sti­tute the kind of change that adults have so far failed to de­liver.

In a way, they are fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of their grand­par­ents in the ’60s.

Once again, the an­swer is blow­ing in the wind.

And the winds of change – spurred by the voices of young peo­ple - are com­ing to the nation’s gun poli­cies.

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