Firearms: The Salutary Revolt of American High Schoolers

After the Parkland massacre, the survivors, in an unprecedented movement, are demanding that measures finally be put in place to restrict access to firearms.

Much like the death penalty, the issue of firearms is part of those American woes that are beyond European comprehension. How can a civilized democracy become so accustomed to such brutality? How can they tolerate the statistic from the journal Pediatrics, which states that each week, on average, 25 children and adolescents under the age of 17 are killed by bullets in the United States? How, when mass shootings are multiplying in schools, can mothers and fathers continue to elect representatives who are financially dependent on the National Rifle Association, the all-powerful gun lobby? To reasonably clear minds, this blindness is incomprehensible.

The new tragedy, in which a young man, Nicolas Cruz, killed 17 teens and teachers at his old high school on Feb. 14 in Parkland, Florida, is perhaps on track to break this blindness. The high schoolers’ spontaneous and unprecedented movement, triggered by the massacre, is raising hopes. Having grown weary of the powerlessness of their elders, outraged by the blockage of any meaningful gun control opposed by elected officials from many American states and Congress, these adolescents have taken the initiative, as women and African-Americans before them have done on other issues. They are demanding that measures finally be put in place to restrict access to these death machines.

Anger Is Rising

The media have largely responded to the high schoolers, particularly those who survived the Parkland massacre, hidden in storage rooms, experiencing hours of interminable anguish as they sent goodbye texts to their families while waiting for the murderer to find them. Their movement has expanded: There is an organized march on Washington set for March 24. Their determination and their eloquence have deeply moved America. They have imposed a heated session on Floridian Republican Senator Marco Rubio during a town hall meeting organized by CNN. They have even gone as far as Donald Trump, who received some of the survivors as well as families of victims at the White House on Feb. 21.

Staunch defender of the Second Amendment of the American constitution, which guarantees the right to bear arms, President Trump considers himself to be the White House “champion” of the NRA. But he is also feeling the rising anger. He seems ready to encourage some legislative concessions on certain technical plans that would limit, marginally, access to the deadliest firearms and weapons of war. But he has also proposed arming teachers in schools, like he suggested at the time of the Bataclan attack in Paris in November 2015, saying that the massacre could have been avoided if spectators had been armed.

These absurdities show that Trump will not be a man of change in this matter. This, however, should not discourage the high schoolers. It is a culture that is deeply rooted in the United States and is perverted by the NRA, which they are attacking. Their battle is a long-term fight, in a country that counts practically as many guns in circulation as inhabitants. But this culture is not monolithic. And the slow evolution of mentality on the death penalty, under relentless pressure from legal experts who are opposed to capital punishment, demonstrates that evolving a culture is not within the realm of the impossible.

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