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The Great Gun Control Debate: Today’s Teens Voice Their Opinions

February 26, 2018

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By: Alexa Stevens (16)

In the past, gun control debates have surrounded the question: is gun ownership a right or is it a privilege? The pro-guns side often cited their second amendment rights – the one that gives you the “right to bear arms,” meaning the right to own guns. Guns were often deemed necessary for self-protection as well as for hunting. The pro-gun control side often countered this by mentioning that this Bill of Rights excerpt is outdated, seeing that it was ratified in 1791, and that not only do guns no longer need to be a part of everyday life, but also that guns are more advanced than they were in the late eighteenth century. Following the deadly shooting which occurred this past Valentine’s Day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, teens have added their voices to the conversation. The question is now: do I need guns to protect myself, or do I need to protect myself from guns?

Jaclyn Corin, Ryan Deitsch and Alfonso Calderon, along with their classmates from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High SchoolJaclyn Corin, Ryan Deitsch and Alfonso Calderon, along with their classmates from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High SchoolCourtesy of Washington Post

Real Opinions from Real Teens

The Parkland shooting took 17 lives from students and teachers, alike. Survivors of this shooting speak out:

  • “I know everyone else here will fight for the rest of their lives to see sensible gun laws in this country, so that kids don’t have to fear going back to school.” – Alfonso Calderon, 16
  • “We are here, our voices are loud, and we’re not stopping until change happens.” – Tanzil Philip, 16
  • “Since the time of the Founding Fathers and since they added the Second Amendment to the Constitution, our guns have developed at a rate that leaves me dizzy. The guns have changed but our laws have not.” – Emma Gonzalez, 18

Tanzil Philip, a student survivor addresses the crowd surrounded by fellow classmatesTanzil Philip, a student survivor addresses the crowd surrounded by fellow classmatesCourtesy of ABC News

Proposed Change

There’s a lot of talk, but what might actually happen? We can get a good idea from what some politicians have been saying in the week since the shooting. On February 22nd, President Trump Tweeted: “… look at the possibility of giving concealed guns to gun adept teachers with military or special training experience - only the best.” This Tweet proposes arming teachers – an idea that brought about an overwhelmingly negative response. Marco Rubio, a Republican Florida Senator shared his thoughts on this proposition at a discussion on gun control held in Sunrise, Florida by CNN. Rubio said, “…I don't support that … The notion that my kids are going to school with teachers that are armed with a weapon is not something… I'm comfortable with.”

The National Rifle Association (NRA), however, supports this plan. The head of this five million-member organization, Wayne LaPierre, went so far as to offer complimentary school security aid by the NRA itself. As for preventing another school shooting, the NRA takes a “People kill people, not guns” approach in declaring that we must recognize the signs of a killer and report him or her before a gun is even in his or her hands. Trump agrees with this and so he supports a second plan: background checks through a system titled the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. This system would allow gun salesmen to look up a customer and find his or her criminal record in the database instantly, making it easier to detect a criminal and consequently deny him or her access to a gun. A third gun regulation plan, which Trump supports, is to increase the age at which one can legally purchase a gun from eighteen to twenty-one. If this legal age had been changed before the shooting, the nineteen-year-old shooter wouldn’t have been able to purchase a gun. A law of this sort seems likely: many Democrats as well as Republicans have been advocating for background checks.

Students attend a candlelight vigil for victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.Students attend a candlelight vigil for victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.Courtesy of Brynn Anderson / AP

Teens Take Action Together

High school students around The United States have staged a seventeen-minute walkout on February 22nd. Each of the seventeen minutes represented a life lost during the shooting, and the walkout itself represented a national feeling of insecurity in schools in the wake of this tragedy. Another walkout of this sort will be staged on March 14th at 10 A.M, again for seventeen minutes.

Also, on April 20 of this year, there will be a full-day walkout. This walkout will be different from the others – it will not commemorate the victims of the Parkland shooting but of the shooting that occurred in Columbine, Colorado nineteen years ago from this April 20th.

The final national planned event gun control advocates will host will be a march, which will occur on March 24. This march will be national, as it will be composed of sister marches in cities around the country. This will be held by an organization called March for Our Lives. The main march will take place in Washington, DC.

Emma Gonzalez at the CNN Town HallEmma Gonzalez at the CNN Town HallCourtesy of Getty

Attending High School in the Wake of the Shootings

Around my high school campus, there is a new sense of fear. Our outdoor Southern California campus is open with no front door and no walls to keep people from entering its boundaries. However, with this sense of fear comes students ready to take action. The club I run is holding a meeting this week during which we will make calls to the district, the local police department, and to our legal representatives asking them what they are going to do to make us feel safer on our campus. This is how I think we must take action. Rather than arming teachers or arming ourselves, we put our trust into law enforcement officers and our government to make a change after hearing the voices of scared teenagers who want to attend a high school, not a possible crime scene. Taking action in ways such as this makes us less afraid because not only does doing so assure us that things will change but it also feels better than doing nothing. Standing by while gun violence takes lives of students our age and with lives so similar to ours makes us feel like part of the problem. We must be the solution. Whether or not it is gun control you desire, we can all agree that something needs to change. These student deaths need to stop. Guns need to stop ending up in the hands of those who will use these weapons with malicious intent. American children need to feel safe at school again.

Have Your say

How safe do you feel in your school?  What change do you want to see? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.