The "March For Our Lives" approaches this morning and I'm not sure how I feel about it. The march is a nationwide protest/rally organized by a progressive youth movement and the survivors of the Parkland, Florida Valentines Day Massacre.
The cause on it's face is a noble one, and I don't necessarily take issue with it. These kids survived a horrible traumatic, life changing event, and have decided to do something about it. That intestinal fortitude is refreshing to see, and it is sign that the next generation will have be involved in the political process more than maybe was previously anticipated.
According to their mission statement the students intend to send a message to President Donald Trump and Congress and demand that their politicians pursue gun legislation to make it harder to acquire firearms. Their goal is to stem “the epidemic of mass schools shootings that has become all too familiar". They also reference gun violence in general, but that seems like an after thought.
The reality is that school shootings like Parkland are thankfully rare. Ideally we'd prefer they never happen, but shootings where two or more people die happen roughly once every year over the last 20 years. Again that number is too high and a stark reminder of how vulnerable our schools are, but compared to the various other types of gun violence, mass shootings in schools are small drop in the bucket when we compare the numbers of other types of gun deaths.
My issue lies in the number of children that are murdered on the streets of Cleveland, Chicago, St. Louis, and cities across the country every day. Every night on the local news there are families pleading for help, crying over a lost loved one, and most of us, shake our heads at best or hurry up and change the channel when they start with "those stories". Children in the inner cities are not worried about being shot in school mostly because the shooting happens everyday, everywhere between school and home. Many of these children are innocent victims caught in the crossfire of gang and drug wars. Some of the children get caught up in the life and become victims of retaliation. Whether an innocent victim or a by product of their own actions, these kids are being and dying in the streets at a rate that none of us should be comfortable with.
I don't blame the Parkland students for taking up their position based off their experience, but I can point the finger at all of us who didn't pick up the torch for all the victims that came before Parkland. If the saying "you're only as strong as your weakest link" is true, then the weakest link in our society regarding gun violence are the kids that experience the violence on a daily basis. Had we as a national community had made serious efforts to solve for the gun problem facing inner cities, we may have by default solved for the problem that allowed for the Parkland shooting to happen in the first place.
The truth of the matter about the Parkland shooting is that we now know that incident could've been stopped at multiple levels before the actual day of the event. There were red flags, there were warnings. there were attempts to deal with Nikolas Cruz as a danger to himself and others, but countless bureaucrats were asleep at the switch. We had government entities that weren't sharing information so the left hand didn't know what the right was doing. The FBI received a tip that the kid made a statement that he was going to become a professional school shooter, and his social media showed he had an obsession with guns. (Not saying because you like guns, you should lose them, but if you say you want to become a professional school shooter and you have an obsession guns, we should probably take a look at you and maybe hold your guns for a while or forever). We had a school resource officer that was either told not to engage the shooter or just opted to not engage the shooter, which literally pisses down the leg of the NRA "good guy with a gun" argument. I don't necessarily disagree with the good guy with a gun argument, but apparently this officer believed his blue life mattered than the kids in that school on that day.
Today will mostly highlight the kids from the Parkland shooting and their experience, which as the organizers makes sense. What hope for, but don't have faith in, is that these kids are enlightened enough to point to the kids who deal with gun violence everyday and say this is who we're fighting for. The reality is, is that most of the kids from Parkland will probably never have to deal with gun violence again based on the communities they live in. The parallel reality is that the kids on the east side of Cleveland, the south side of Chicago, Baltimore, St. Louis, and so on deal with gun violence every day and every night. There are no safe spaces for these kids in these neighborhoods other than schools. At any given time they could catch a stray bullet meant for someone else on the street, they can catch a bullet while lying in their own bed because a shooter uses a gun so powerful it goes through the walls of a home and hits them while they sleep.
If we solve for the weakest link, we'll all be better for it in the not so distant future.