Our theme for the month of March is “Part Two.” Writers were challenged to choose a piece they’ve previously contributed to the post calvin and revisit it, perhaps writing a sequel or reflecting on how things have changed.
Andrew’s original post is “Keeping Our Enemies Close: Millenials in Politics.” In addition to expertly tying this piece to the original, he will be using the original’s main theme—young people engaging in politics—to advance his liberal agenda.
Author’s note: for my thirtieth birthday (the twenty-third), I’m trying to raise $300 to fight for more gun control. The money will go to Everytown for Gun Safety, the organization started by parents of children killed at Newtown and which is working with survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, FL on coordinating the March for our Lives on March 24. If this is a cause you care about, please consider giving – every little bit helps. Donate here! After that, march!
I remember Columbine. I was on the way to baseball practice with my mom and she told me about. I remember being terrified—reading about how heavily armed they were, trying to imagine myself in that scenario, what I would do.
A few weeks ago I talked to my dad on the phone. I asked him about my two twelve-year-old brothers—had they heard about the shooting at Parkland? Were they scared?
He said, “No more scared than after any of the other shootings.”
America—where the tragedy of one shooting blends into the statistic of thousands of them. Josef Stalin would be proud.
Devoting too much energy to building a case for more (or, like…some) gun controls has historically been an exercise in futility. It has been futile because of the hitherto complete lack of interest among the powerful in doing anything meaningful about curbing gun deaths. But because I aim to educate and inform, consider the following (all stats from this Vox article):
- The United States has four times the homicides by firearm of any other developed country.
- The United States has 4.4 percent of the world’s population and 48 percent of civilian-owned firearms.
- It’s not just the U.S.—countries with more guns have more gun-related deaths.
- This is also true within the U.S.—states with tighter gun control laws have fewer gun-related deaths.
- Police officers in high-gun states are killed much more often than in low-gun states.
- Homicides are only a part of the problem—every day, more than fifty people use guns to die by suicide.
- Tighter gun control laws have resulted in fewer firearm suicides.
It is true beyond a shadow of a doubt that more gun control would save lives. But the influence wielded by the gun manufacturers through the NRA, a small but vocal minority of single-issue gun voters, and a steadfast unwillingness in the Republican party to doing anything which would make the United States better have led to gun control legislation rotting on the vine for decades.
That time is now at an end. No one would have blamed the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for mourning and wanting to disappear from the spotlight after seeing the blood of their classmates and friends running through the hallways of their school. Instead, they grabbed the spotlight and turned it on the halls of power, right into the office of every craven legislator offering their “thoughts and prayers to the victims.”
In so doing, the students changed a narrative which had become depressingly predictable. Every other mass shooting in this country has followed the same pattern—some people call for change, Marco Rubio calls for thoughts and prayers, Republicans adopt somber tones and say it’s too soon to think about policy, gun sales spike, and people forget.
MSD students have broken this cycle, thanks to what the New York Times called “the teenage superpower of not knowing what you’re not supposed to be able to do.” They held press conferences mere days after the shooting. They called out politicians for hypocrisy and inaction. And because they have been forged in the crucible of the internet age, they broadcast their message cleverly, widely and quickly, shutting down and dunking on the right wing spin machine in the process. And conscious of the short attention span of news, they have organized multiple events (a national school walkout on the fourteenth, a nation-wide march on the twenty-fourth) to ensure that this time, it will be different.
And it’s working. Major suppliers like Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods raised their age limits for firearm purchases and will no longer sell military-grade weapons, and many others are cutting ties with the NRA and gun manufacturers. Oregon and Florida passed additional gun restrictions, and even President Joffrey Baratheon suggested, much to the consternation of Republicans, that he wanted background checks (he obviously backed off later, but hey—anything which makes the Republican Party even temporarily unhappy is a win). And for the first time since I can remember, gun control could be an issue which candidates run on.
Most importantly of all, the Parkland activism has led tens of thousands of young people around the country to become civically engaged—many of the national school walkouts were paired with voter registration drives, and nearly 1 million students, many braving threats of suspension, participated in what for many was likely their first public protest. Millions more will march on Saturday the twenty-fourth.
This November will be the first year that many of these students are of voting age. In a cycle which is already showing signs of being bad for the GOP (and which has seen increased youth turnout already), the introduction of millions of additional, motivated liberal voters should terrify Republicans. Voting and civic participation is a habit, and these young people have decided that they want to have a say in what their future will look like.
That is a good thing, because I have seen the body of work of the present set of voters and I am ready for something new (and I’m not the only one). In the words of Emma Gonzalez:
“They say no laws could have prevented the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred. We call BS! That us kids don’t know what we’re talking about, that we’re too young to understand how the government works. We call BS!
If you agree, register to vote. Contact your local congresspeople. Give them a piece of your mind.”
Amen, Emma, and keep up the amazing work. 230 days ’til Election Day.
After working in Washington, D.C., for two years, Andrew Orlebeke (’10) is in graduate school in Seattle, Washington, studying public policy. In addition to public service, he has a passion for traveling and an abiding love of sports.