To Fulfill Their Vision of #NeverAgain, Students Must Advocate for the End of Guns
To the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School:
Save for the intrepid few who took up your cause long ago, our nation’s elders owe you a profound apology. Collectively, they failed to substantively address our epidemic of gun violence, choosing instead to hide behind “culture” and “tradition,” and letting greed, cowardice, and delusion be their guide.
By abdicating their responsibility, they abandoned you. Shame doesn’t begin to describe how they should feel.
In the aftermath of your school’s mass shooting, grieving and caring for one another ought to have been your only charge. Yet, somehow, you’ve also marshaled the courage and conviction to confront our country’s perverse calling card head on.
The backlash toward your early efforts has been swift and predictable. As has the response from the GOP, the National Rifle Association, the President, and the majority of your state legislators.
Thankfully, the support that’s come your way has been notable — evidenced by a growing faction of major corporations who’ve cut ties with the NRA and renewed public interest in securing comprehensive background checks for all gun exchanges; banning assault weapons, bump stocks and high-capacity magazines; and strengthening multiple features of our mental heath system.
Commendable corporate action notwithstanding, the balance of that list probably looks familiar to you. And it should, since that’s pretty much where you came in. If those proposals were to pass, some progress would be made. But it won’t be nearly enough to achieve your stated goal of #Never Again.
That’s because those and other measures similar in spirit fail to address the most critical aspect of this gut-wrenching debate.
Simply put, the human psyche is nothing, if not fragile and unpredictable. It is also far from static. Illness, disease, and myriad forms of personal trauma can lead to periods of severe emotional or psychological instability. And there are no tests, background checks, or crystal balls that can predict, with any degree of certainty, if or when that might happen, and to whom.
This means that an unknowable percentage of today’s “responsible gun owners” — a.k.a. “good guys (or, if you prefer, teachers and other school personnel) with guns” — will, at some point in their lives, become individuals seeking to harm themselves or others. And they’ll have the most deadly means of doing so at their fingertips.
Sadly, that’s the unnerving reality of gun control.
It’s also your best argument for the only “common sense” response to gun violence: a campaign explicitly designed to end the manufacturing of guns and ammunition for civilian purchase and to inspire each of us to voluntarily commit to a gun-free home.
This unparalleled stance would, of course, elicit a torrent of criticism from the usual suspects. Gun-control activists will also have your ear, warning that your approach is, at best, unrealistic, and, at worst, counterproductive.
But, if you are steadfast in your belief that the only acceptable number of gun-related deaths is zero, then the path you’ll chose is clear.
In a matter of days, you provided our country with the wake-up call it so desperately needed. Now, your willingness, and ability, to speak truth to power has the potential to permanently alter our nation’s perception of guns — for the better.
The sea change we’ve been longing for is finally visible on the horizon. Courage of the highest order will be necessary to steer the ship.
That, you have. In spades.
John Morlino is a former social worker and founder of The Essence of True Humanity Is Compassion (The ETHIC). He has been working to end gun violence for more than a decade.
2018 John J. Morlino, Jr. Some rights reserved. License: Attribution, non-commercial, no derivatives.