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Ethics & Religion
Column #1,908
March 15, 2018
Students Protest for Gun Control
By Mike McManus

On the one-month anniversary of the Parkland, Florida shootings, students held demonstrations in 3,500 cities on Wednesday bearing signs with the names of the 17 victims.

In Alexandria, Virginia more than 1,500 students filled the T.C. Williams High School football field as the scoreboard clock ticked down 17 minutes to honor the victims. Some stood while others sat, many of them holding posters saying Never Again or Enough.

Across the river in Washington, thousands of students gathered at the White House, but turned their backs to it since Trump changed his mind about pressing for legislation to raise the age to buy rifles from 18 to 21. Thousands of other students converged on Capitol Hill, where they were greeted by an enthusiastic Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Some students openly defied school orders not to participate. In Cobb County, Georgia near Atlanta, the threat of punishment did not keep scores of Walton High School students from standing in silence on the football field for 170 seconds, honoring the 17 victims.

It is unlikely that Congress will respond positively. Although Florida last week raised the minimum age to buy a firearm to 21 and extended the waiting period to three days, President Trump abandoned his pledge to seek national reforms after meeting with National Rifle Association leaders.

However, student pressure is growing and is earning a wide respect. N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, stretched out on the sidewalk as part of a "lie-in" with students in Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, joined him.

Hundreds of students sat in the middle of 62nd Street for several minutes before the crowd rose to their feet to shout, "No more violence." Uptown, students from the Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics, a high school of 1,600 in East Harlem, streamed outside holding signs, "Am I next?" and "How many children have to die?"

They chanted, "Enough is enough!" and "Hey, hey, N.R.A., how many kids have you killed today?"

In London, about 300 students and staff members of the American School walked out and gathered in silence on the school's sports field. "We're very lucky," said Cameron Lynch, a 17-year-old student who moved to London from Virginia. "My old school sent an email saying that any teacher who would try to take part in the walkout would be fired."

Some of the day's most poignant demonstrations could be seen at schools whose names are synonymous with shootings.

At Columbine High School near Denver, site of the 1999 killing of 13 people that seemed to signify the beginning of a generation of school attacks, hundreds of students clustered on a soccer field. They waved signs - "This is our future" - and released a bouquet of balloons in red, white and blue.

Afterward, Kaylee Tyner, 16, stood next to Frank DeAngelo, who was the principal when the attack occurred. She said, "We have grown up watching more tragedies occur and continuously asking, Why? Why does this keep happening?"

For any serious debate to take place in Congress, it must first get the support of the top two Republican leaders, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan. They decide which bills get a hearing and votes.

A day after the shooting in Florida, Ryan said "We need to think less about taking sides and fighting each other politically and just pulling together." While Democrats are being more responsive to students, it should be recalled that even when Democrats were in control of Congress and the White House in 2009-2010, they didn't make gun control a priority.

However, there are some encouraging signs. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) is working on a bill with Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) to raise the age requirement to purchase a rifle to 21. He says, "A kid too young to buy a handgun should be too young to buy an AR-15."

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), said at a CNN town hall that he also backs the banning of rifles and shotguns to 18-year-olds: "I will support a law that takes that right away," he asserted. He's also reconsidering his support for large-capacity magazines.

Republican Sen. John Cornyn and Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy have a bill that would enforce better reporting of domestic abuse to the National Instant Criminal Background Check system.

There is hope.

But much more student Never Again pressure will be needed.

___________________________________

Copyright (c) 2018 Michael J. McManus, President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist. For previous columns go to  www.ethicsandreligion.org. Hit Search for any topic.

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