On the 14 February, 2018, a 19 year old gunman walked into Majory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and opened fire. He killed 17 students and faculty members. The Parkland tragedy signalled a shift in attitudes towards gun control, as the survivors and family members of the victims spoke out and challenged America’s obsession with guns.
The tragedy at Parkland will stay with the community forever but so will their courage, resilience and determination to bring about change. The March for Our Lives rally in Washington, where millions came together to protest the inaction of their political leaders, really signalled how young people’s attitudes no longer align with the inherent American normalisation of gun violence.
Santa Clarita, El Paso, Charlotte, Ascenion and Livingstone Parish, Thousand Oaks, Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue, Santa Fe High School, Parkland, Las Vegas. Some of the more infamous incidents but only a small % of the mass shooting figure in America.
The National Rifle Association of America, refers to itself as the ‘longest-standing civil rights organisation’ in America. It’s America’s leading advocate for the upholding of the Second Amendment; the right of the people to keep and bear arms. But for most of the world, it’s hard to understand how so many Americans get their hands on guns, or even why they would want to.
Every year, multiple times a year, heavily armed individuals bent on destruction wreak havoc on American communities. The right to bear arms comes from the American Constitution, a 250 year old document which underpins American society. It’s strength and foothold in the laws that govern America means that now, most people aren’t even fighting for guns being outright banned, and instead only that greater controls are enforced.
The American love affair with guns seems to derive from a notion of self-defence and male chauvinism. A real man should be able to protect his family. By the time the police get there you will be dead. But if guns really made you safer, America would be one of the safest places on the planet. Right now, an average of seven children or teenagers are killed every day. At least once a week a toddler injures someone with a gun.
Guns have always been a part of American culture, and culture is hard to change. However, the level of gun violence in America is a national public health emergency. So far, when tragedies happen, people have mourned and campaigned but for the most part, everything goes back to normal. The gun has, until now, held on to its position as the cornerstone of American society.
The March For Our Lives organisation has enacted the youth of America, a generation who don’t buy into the myths that have long been circulated by the pro-gun lobbyists. In their efforts to end the gun violence epidemic, they have devised a bold peace plan, focused on changing the standards required for gun ownership and holding the gun lobby and industry accountable for their illegalities and misguided policies. Their plan also includes community-based solutions, targeting the intersectional dimensions of gun violence. As a top cause of death in young people, gun violence is rooted in hate, poverty, race, immigration and economic justice. March For Our Lives are at the forefront of a generational shift demanding a comprehensive and sweeping reform to finally secure a sense of peace and security, that us in Europe have so easily taken for granted.