Cameron Koubek

Why the Voices of the Parkland Students Matter

It has been over five years since Adam Lanza killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Five months ago, the deadliest shooting in American history occurred when Stephen Paddock gunned down 58 people at a concert in Las Vegas. Just three weeks ago, at least 17 people were killed at a high school in Parkland, Florida by Nikolas Cruz.

The solution to stopping mass shootings seems simple enough – laws need to change in the U.S. to make it more difficult to obtain guns for people who would use them to commit acts of terror.

But rhetoric around gun control has entered a harmful cycle: a shooting occurs, the nation mourns and prays, and calls for action appear all over the news until no such action materialises and everyone moves on until the next shooting happens.

With that cycle in mind, it is important that the voices of the students from Parkland don’t fade into the background. They have done all they can to hold members of government responsible, appearing on television and organising protests to call for new legislation on guns.

At a town hall meeting, student Cameron Kasky asked Florida Senator Marco Rubio if he could promise that he would no longer accept campaign donations from the National Rifle Association. Rubio couldn’t do it.

The actions of Kasky and his fellow students have already spurred steps in the right direction, most notably causing some companies to cut ties with the NRA and others (such as Walmart and Dick’s) to change their policies regarding gun sales. However, drastic changes from the highest levels of the U.S. government are still needed to curb gun violence in America.

It takes tremendous courage to join a debate of this magnitude, and even as the Parkland students have inspired other young people to make their voices heard, some have tried to discredit them. Arguments against listening to the Parkland students centre around the idea that they are too young and emotional to have well-informed opinions about gun control.

This viewpoint is flawed in that it attempts to deny the Parkland students their fundamental right to protest – a right that when exercised throughout history has proved to be an effective tool for improving society. The fact that the students are teenagers shouldn’t diminish this right in any way. In fact, it should strengthen their cause.

Young people today will be the world’s leaders in just a few decades. The decisions that the government takes now will impact young people the most in the future, making it vital that students realise that they are never too young to refuse to be silent about their opinions.

Hopefully, the actions of the Parkland students will bring about long-awaited gun control legislation, but they have already provided a great example for other young people on how to bring attention to any issue they are passionate about, not just gun control.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

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