Tar­gets no more

The Beacon (Gander) - - Editorial -

It started as a lo­cal protest against yet an­other sense­less, tragic school shoot­ing. It mush­roomed into a na­tion-wide stu­dent walk­out, which crossed bor­ders into Canada and rock­eted around the world. Wed­nes­day’s demon­stra­tions by tens of thou­sands of stu­dents across the globe was re­mark­able.

It sends a mes­sage that stu­dents are not go­ing to take it any­more. They are re­fus­ing to re­main de­fence­less pawns in a los­ing bat­tle over gun con­trol. The walk­outs and demon­stra­tions sig­naled that a new and pow­er­ful force is mo­bi­liz­ing that can lead pos­i­tive change in so­ci­ety.

In Flor­ida, the scene of the lat­est mas­sacre where a sin­gle shooter killed 17 stu­dents and staff mem­bers last month, you must be 21-years-old to buy booze in a state which has zero tol­er­ance al­co­hol laws for mi­nors caught driv­ing. Yet, 18-year-olds can legally pur­chase lethal as­sault ri­fles.

Stu­dents are tired of be­ing the next tar­gets of se­rial killers while law­mak­ers sit idly by and do noth­ing ex­cept of course send along their thoughts and prayers and mouth the empty mantra that now is not the time to dis­cuss gun con­trol. The at­tack in Flor­ida was the 17th school shoot­ing in the U.S. within the first 45 days of 2018, so when is a good time?

Stu­dents say the time is now. Politi­cians, in­clud­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, were told their thoughts and prayers were use­less and would not stop the slaugh­ter. Wed­nes­day’s march sought sen­si­ble changes from law­mak­ers: Ban as­sault weapons, re­quire uni­ver­sal back­ground checks be­fore gun sales and pass a gun vi­o­lence re­strain­ing law.

Stu­dent out­age and pas­sion­ate in­ter­views got im­me­di­ate re­sults. They de­bated pow­er­ful politi­cians and the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion (NRA). They got a meet­ing in the White House where Pres­i­dent Trump ap­peared sympathetic; they pres­sured Flor­ida law­mak­ers to pass a tougher gun law; and they or­ga­nized a mas­sive walk­out. Ma­jor com­pa­nies stopped sell­ing as­sault ri­fles or re­stricted their sale while cor­po­rate deals with the NRA were voided. They chal­lenged can­di­dates to re­ject NRA cam­paign do­na­tions – so-called blood money.

This is what stu­dents helped ac­com­plish in mere days. And what got law­mak­ers to fi­nally pay at­ten­tion? It was sim­ple re­ally - the ul­ti­mate power of the bal­lot box. Many stu­dent or­ga­niz­ers will be able to vote in this fall’s mid-term elec­tions, and many more in the next gen­eral elec­tion. Ner­vous and an­guished par­ents will sup­port their chil­dren. It’s a pow­er­ful vot­ing block which will grow and grow.

Last year saw the #MeToo Move­ment ex­plode as women mo­bi­lized across Amer­ica and around the world to protest gen­der in­equal­ity and ex­ploita­tion. Many pow­er­ful men, who thought them­selves im­mune, were brought down. Women flexed their power like never be­fore.

The same op­por­tu­nity awaits these young peo­ple. If they can curb guns to­day, what other mo­men­tous deeds can be ac­com­plished to­mor­row? This next gen­er­a­tion is de­ter­mined not to fail. They vow to clean up the mess left by adults and make this world a safer place. They prom­ise, “we are go­ing to be the last mass shoot­ing.”

Let’s hope they are right.

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