To be clear: this is not an attack, rather a light that, hopefully, sparks a sense of urgency in adults across this nation to step up to the front lines of this war against increasing gun violence in our schools. Our children are already there. Just within the last month, two students, one in college and the other a graduating senior in high school, were killed when taking on gunmen at their schools, saving the lives of fellow students. Riley Howell, formerly an ROTC cadet at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, was buried with military honors, is one of two killed and four injured, after reportedly tackling the shooter who went on a rampage the last day of classes. Kendrick Castillo was killed just a week later, on May 7, 2019, three days before graduation, after he lunged at one of two gunmen who opened fired at STEM School Richland Hills Ranch in a suburb of Denver, Colorado. Castillo’s fellow classmates remember him as a hero as one of them recalled on several news outlets that Castillo’s actions gave them enough time to seek cover and escape the carnage. It is only the fifth month of the year and the STEM school shooting marked the 42nd of 2019. Although the actions of these two students were indeed heroic, they were victims; victims of our failure, as adults, to act on their behalves. What can you do, you ask? We can press for stricter gun laws and take a more grassroots approach to end bullying and remove the stigma associated with mental health issues.
Following each of these horrific events, survivors have pled with us, as a nation, to enact measures which will make it more difficult for semi-automatic weapons to land in the hands of those looking to carry out such acts. Each time, we have responded, with thoughts, prayers, and crowdfunds, but little more. We have to enact stricter gun laws. Few politicians campaign on this issue because of the constitutional implications and the hard sentiment carried by a majority of Americans against folks ‘taking away our guns.’ But, the proof is in the pudding that activism makes politicians respond. After 17 students were gunned down on Valentine’s Day 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida, a group of surviving students immediately appeared on national news outlets, rallied outside the State Capitol and organized ‘March for Our Lives’ where thousands of people have participated in marches on Washington and in cities around the country in support of the cause. As a result, in March 2018, the Florida Legislature Florida enacted the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act to tighten gun control and increase school security and safety.
Gun violence in our schools impacts us all, so this shouldn’t be a partisan issue. However, Republican candidates have been least receptive to calls for action. In fact, our current Republican administration reversed Obama-era gun regulation just a year prior to the Parkland shooting which made it harder for people with mental illnesses to buy guns. If past is prologue, we can guess where the current administration stands on gun regulation going forward. One candidate for president, however, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., has made gun regulation a major platform for his nomination calling his plan “the most comprehensive gun violence prevention plan of any candidate for president in decades.” I will save my personal opinion of Sen. Booker’s plan but will say this, his stance and plan will force the conversation. It will be up to us to demand that whomever we elect for President in 2020 promise immediate action in exchanges for our votes.