Photo by Tanja Heffner
To the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. You are MAGNIFICENTLY standing up, speaking out, calling B.S., and planning political action for reasonable legislation. THANK YOU! You are showing our country (and the world) the very best of who we are as human beings and as Americans. You are looking at the problem of gun violence, and particularly at mass shootings in our society, and taking steps to address and reduce that problem. Please do continue your actions. Please do not lose interest or momentum, but rather keep on keeping on! You can indeed lead us to make changes that are badly needed, and that neither our politicians nor our general adult population have been able to achieve or sustain until now. And remind those politicians not ready to listen that YOU will be legal to vote, and you will be active voters, in the next year or so.
Regarding legislation. This can be a very impactful moment in our history regarding reasonable gun control legislation. Recognize that the need is to insist on a comprehensive and reasonable package, which takes into account such basic requirements as comprehensive checks on ALL gun sales; no assault rifles for general sale; limits on clip sizes; no sales of conversion/ bump stocks. The power and momentum are here now to make this happen, and it is not success if only one or another piece of legislation gets passed in on or another state.
[A discussion of whether much more major change, such as that successfully undertaken in Australia after mass shootings there, might fit the American ethos, can be examined after we put some basic changes in place.]
Regarding the efforts needed. High school students in every state need to be heard, and legislators, at both the federal and state levels, need to know that the students will strike more extensively if reasonable legislation isn’t passed NOW. Yes, that is a call for longer and more extensive strikes as needed until basic legislation is passed and signed into law.
Regarding your parents. Bring them into this process. As allies. Give them a chance to follow your lead and you may be pleasantly surprised. Ask them to make it clear that they are supporting the students and that, if the students aren’t heard, then the parents, and grandparents, and other allies, will also strike, bringing both schools and the workplace to a standstill until legislation is passed.
Regarding the NRA. Surveys have clearly shown that more than 80 percent of Democrats and Republicans support reasonable gun legislation. 83 percent of gun owners, and 73 percent of NRA members, support background checks for all. We need the older adults who are members of the NRA (and yes, I was once a member) to actively select new and more reasonable leadership for the organization. The NRA was once a well-respected educational organization. Organization, formed to encourage better marksmanship; it actively supportive of those efforts by sponsoring shooting as sport and in competitions. Historically, the NRA has also supported legislation including the National Firearms Act of 1934 and the Gun Control Act of 1938, as well as more recent brief willingness to “look” at gunstock regulation. Your NRA-member parents need to force the removal of Wayne LaPierre and the Board that label youngsters and adults who want reasonable gun regulations as anti-American socialists; and, these issues need to be separated from both political and religious labels. The seniors need to elect NRA leaders who do not need or want to push our countrymen and women to extreme positions, when there are middle grounds that respect and honor both the 2nd amendment and reasonable safety.
Regarding politicians and the NRA. Please continue to remind our politicians that, if they vote UNANIMOUSLY tell the NRA to back off, then the NRA leverage over individuals running for office will be diminished. And, if you get parents, grandparents, etc. to pledge to vote against any candidates who accept NRA monies, then the NRA can return its focus to being a good and contributing organization in our society. Politicians may also need to be reminded that only 19% of U.S. gun owners belong to the NRA.
Regarding student strikes. Please strongly encourage student groups who are planning to strike to hear guest presenters from various activist groups about how to make the strikes NON-VIOLENT. Presentations on how to stand firm before intimidation without responding violently. There are many well qualified groups able to provide such instruction. We need to stand up to confrontations [with authorities and with others] that have the potential to unfold other than peace-ably. We don’t want any more of you hurt in the process!