Last week, a gunman walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and killed 17 people – 14 students and three school personnel – using a weapon no civilian should have access to.
As is normal after these tragedies, right-wing firearm fanatics have been out in full force pushing the same verifiable lies they always do: Gun laws don’t work. More weapons, not less, will make us safer. It’s only about mental health, not firearms. Gun-free zones need to be eradicated.
From top to bottom, we know these arguments are bogus.
Study after study after study shows that smarter gun laws work. Other advanced countries that implement stricter firearm regulations – banning assault weapons, expanding background checks, increasing waiting periods – have found them to be incredibly effective. Here in the U.S., states that implement tougher laws have fewer gun-related deaths. These are facts.
Owning a gun does not make you safer. In fact, just the opposite is true. Those who possess a firearm are more likely to be harmed than protected by it. According to a study from the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, “Where there are more guns, both men and women are at a higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide.”
America is not the only country on the planet with mentally ill individuals. Folks who push the idea that this violence is just about mental illness forget that people in other countries also struggle with mental conditions – but these countries do not see constant American-style massacres. What’s different is that the United States stands alone in allowing just about anybody with a pulse to obtain a gun. In other words, mental health is not the common denominator in this violence – guns are.
There is no evidence that shooters choose their locations based on whether it’s a “gun-free zone.” As Mother Jones pointed out: “Among the 62 mass shootings over the last 30 years that we studied, not a single case includes evidence that the killer chose to target a place because it banned guns.” Instead, shooters mostly choose locations either at random or based on a personal connection to it.
To anyone willing to do the research, these facts have always been available. They should continue to be shouted from the rooftops every time some right-wing fanatic hops in front of a TV camera or behind a keyboard to spew the same debunked NRA nonsense.
But even though the facts haven’t changed, there is something different about the gun debate following last week’s tragedy in Parkland, Florida. There is a new level of urgency and inspiration spreading across the country that was missing after previous mass shootings.
In state houses and high schools across America, students are speaking out and demanding action. People are mobilizing. Politicians are listening. News cameras haven’t shut off – at least not yet. It’s only been a week, but there is something unique unfolding in the aftermath of this shooting.
That difference is the students – these articulate, motivated and inspiring young people who refuse to let their classmates’ deaths go unnoticed.
The Parkland shooting survivors have managed to light a fire under this cause that should have been raging after Columbine and Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook and Las Vegas. They are committed to making sure it doesn’t go out until our leaders make meaningful changes in America’s weak gun laws.
New polling shows that their tireless efforts appear to be impacting the country as a whole. According to a Quinnipiac University poll, support for stricter firearm regulations has reached a record high.
The facts have always been on the side of those arguing for tougher gun laws. But these young, brave survivors have shown us that it’s more than studies and statistics – it’s a moral choice, too. It’s about who we want to be as a country and whether we care about protecting our people – especially our kids.
If lawmakers and voters want to be on the right side of history, they should join these students in their brave fight for a safer America.
Sean Colarossi currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was an organizing fellow for both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns. He also worked with Planned Parenthood as an Affordable Care Act Outreach Organizer in 2014, helping northeast Ohio residents obtain health insurance coverage.