Hundreds of thousands of students and protesters gathered across the United States on Saturday protesting the current gun laws. Leading the charge was the youth, minors who have finally had enough and want the central government to do something about it. In light of the recent shooting at Marjory Stonewall Douglas high in Florida, students have found their voices and decided to act in what is the largest youth-led protest movement since the Vietnam era. Since the beginning of 2018, there have already been 17 school shootings where someone was hurt or killed, averaging 1.5 per every week.
When the US government is more concerned with keeping students from walking out of campuses than stopping shooters from walking in, public support for tighter gun control laws is greater than it has been for many years. In a recent poll from The Associated Press-NORC Centre for Public Affairs Research, results show that 69% of Americans are in favour of stricter controls, a 14% jump in the last four years. With Sandy Hook and Aurora taking place six years ago and two of the deadliest shootings in modern US history, in Orlando and Las Vegas, taking place in just the last two years, it seems that the tide is turning in the perpetual gun control debate in America. Considering that not enough energy has been put into the debate by ‘grown-ups’, students of America seem to have made the decision to take matters into their own hands. Chanting slogans such as “Enough is enough”, “Vote them out”, and “No more silence”, there is a clear show that the youth are growing weary with the latest US administrations. Yolanda Renee King, the great-granddaughter of the late and great Martin Luther King Jr, famed civil-rights activist and vocal advocate for peace, echoed the sentiments of her forebear when she stood up in Washington, DC, this past weekend, proclaiming: “I have a dream that enough is enough. That this should be a gun-free world. Period”. More young Americans have paralleled that thought, quoted as saying they are tired of being scared at school, that this just needs to stop, and that nothing has changed since Columbine in 1999.
Carrying signs proclaiming “Vote them out” and “Keep the NRA out of politics”, the youth are showing their understanding of the power of their vote. While the current crop of high schoolers was unable to vote in the latest presidential elections, this demographic will change with the upcoming midterm elections to be held for the House and Congress. And by the time the 2020 presidential race comes around, that demographic shift will only be stronger. With 42% approval ratings of Trump, the highest in the last 11 months, the President’s chair is shakier than ever before. The undercurrent in American political psychology is that the grassroots are able to make a difference if it can unite. Their support for Senator Bernie Sanders was clearly indicative and while the Clinton/Trump show overshadowed his success, the trend is coming back. The American youth is starting to make a noise again.
While the pro-gun control portion of society faces a wealthy and powerful opponent in the National Rifle Association (NRA), the main pro-gun lobby group in the U.S., with many moderate Americans passionately in favour of their right to bear arms, the fight is being taken to them. The astonishing fact is that the NRA, according to its website, proclaims itself “the longest-standing civil rights organization”. This stems from the U.S. Constitution’s 2nd Amendment, which provides that the citizens have the right to bear arms against the government’s tyranny. The self-protection against state authorities, however, dates back to the British domination in the 18th century and nowadays represents an obsolete and long out-dated civil “right”. The argument presented by NRA most prominent members is that, together with your guns, the government will take away your personal freedoms. It’s no surprise that such logic and reasoning are normal in a state that was essentially founded by cowboys shooting at Indian natives. In this light, Trump’s initial proposal to arm school teachers in exchange for “bonuses” is not out of the tune in such a contradictory country. With greater-than-ever-before public knowledge on the dealings of the NRA in the government as the biggest recipient of funds from the gun companies, the internet savvy and ever increasingly political youth have access to records on who is and is not on the lobby bankroll. If the revered system of American democracy is upheld, then those in power could well find themselves slowly being voted out of office. While many will argue that this is a pipe dream, and quite possibly unobtainable, one thing is clear. America is standing on the brink of a tide of opinion and those in DC need to know which side they stand on when it turns.