This Is Not Normal


Last Wednesday, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz entered Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and shot and killed 17 people. Many of us were devastated. When innocent people (to say nothing of children) lose their lives, we are compelled to hold loved ones close and consider who we are and what we value.

On learning of the events in Parkland, few of us were shocked. This latest school shooting comes in the wake of a litany of others over the past several years. Our generation has grown up all-too-familiar with horrors like these, and as the headlines continue to accumulate we do not merely grow more and more hopeless, but we are left increasingly disheartened by the lack of action on the part of elected officials.

The response to tragedies such as these has become ritualized. We read the article, we like the Facebook status. For those of us lucky enough not to be personally affected, we do our best to move on. This is a tragedy in and of itself. Violence on this scale should not and cannot be normalized.

The current generation of young people has barely known a world without mass shootings. We practiced active shooter drills and rehearsed lockdowns alongside the alphabet, before we were old enough to differentiate between which was normal and which was not. Children should not grow up in a society that forces them to think devastation like this is inevitable.

Many are not hopeful that the school shooting in Parkland will be the last, fearing instead that this cycle will continue. Many of the survivors have taken to social media themselves, calling for the government to take steps to ensure this doesn’t happen again. And this is at a time when ordinarily they should be worrying only about the pressures of high school. There is a note of hope in this: Perhaps our generation will fill the void left by passive politicians who are too afraid to take any bold political action, who offer nothing more than “thoughts and prayers.”

We have grown up in a world that is reactionary, not proactive, in the face of such violence. As the last few days have proven, 17- and 18-year-olds are taking this issue more seriously than adults. They see how this country feigned outrage once again without working toward a solution. They read about certain members of Congress receiving substantial donations from the NRA.

What it increasingly comes down to is whether you value the lives of schoolchildren over people’s claims to military-style weapons — and this board does, without question. If these tragedies are the manifestation of the gun rights advocates’ ardent protection of the people’s right to bear arms, we will not stand it. The ubiquity of mass murder must end.

Legislators should start by banning the AR-15, which happens to be America’s most popular rifle, according to NPR and It is a military-inspired rifle that is designed to kill efficiently and is accurate, customizable and reliable. We saw this on display in Parkland, as it was Nikolas Cruz’s weapon of choice. Equally horrific was its role in the death of 27 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

According to Time Magazine, mass shooters also used AR-15s or comparable weapons — such as the SIG MCX — in shootings in Aurora, Colorado (death toll: 12); San Bernardino, California (death toll: 14); Orlando, Florida (death toll: 49) and Las Vegas, Nevada (death toll: 58). Why do we value a person’s right to access these types of weapons over so many lives?

AR-15s and similar high-performance weapons were not part of the Founding Fathers’ reality when they wrote the 2nd Amendment. It is time for us to stop defending all types of arms. There are hunting rifles, and then there are AR-15s — between them are profound differences, and these differences need to be recognized in the development of gun legislation that more accurately reflects the capacities of modern weaponry. The 2nd Amendment was not created for these styles of weapons and we should not treat it as such.

Many on the left have been criticized for inserting politics into the national conversation surrounding tragedies like these. Why wouldn’t we insert politics into an issue that so desperately needs better policy? These challenges require immediate preventative action. This can only occur through aggressive and proactive policy change.

We are all well-aware of the long list of opportunities we have had to make tragedies like these less likely in the future. From organizing sit-ins to forming coalitions to promoting new legislation, citizens have been stepping in where the people elected and paid to do so haven’t.

It is time the U.S. government asserts the right of children to attend school without fear of bodily harm over the right of some to own military-style weapons. It is time that we value life over tools used increasingly to bring about death. As the social media presence of students of Stoneman Douglas High School has shown, we are the ones who have the courage to make change — something NRA-bought politicians lack.

We refuse to become numb to tragedies like these. We will tolerate them no longer.

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4 Responses to “This Is Not Normal”

  1. Midd Alum '16 on February 22nd, 2018 12:59 pm

    I appreciate the heart that went into this piece and the lack of standard errors that are prolific in calls for more restrictions on firearms. However, like most impassioned arguments we see after mass shootings, this demonstrates an unfamiliarity with firearms and the realities of violence of this nature.

    First and foremost, a reconciliation of terms. What does it mean to be a ‘military style weapon?’ Above, it seems to be defined as a firearm that is “designed to kill efficiently and is accurate, customizable and reliable.” That description applies to all but the lowest quality firearms of any type. Could it then refer to a firearm actively in use by the military? Maybe. However, the military employs all manner of firearms that are readily available to the public including shotguns, bolt action rifles (more commonly referred to as ‘hunting rifles’), handguns of all sorts, and of course, Semi-Automatic Rifles like the AR-15. Again, this term does not seem to mean anything of substance and serves only as a foil.

    If there is some other definition that you intended to use to distinguish AR-15 style weapons from other assumedly less dangerous alternatives in these situations, please define what makes them worthy of elevation over other firearms (Aside from looking more intimidating than a rifle with a wooden stock).

    The reason these firearms are ‘scary’ is not often fully understood by gun control advocates. They are scary because they allow anyone to shoot at distances greater than 50 meters with accuracy that not even the most expert handguns shooters could match. However, in confined spaces, they offer no advantage and are often a hindrance. Walking up to a building with a rifle is a clear warning sign where as a shooter concealing multiple handguns would not be detectable as a threat until the shooting starts. Furthermore, rifle rounds are lighter and more frangible than handgun rounds. They are often stopped by drywall and doors but pass through humans without tumbling and creating more damage. Handgun rounds are slower but heavier and often are more damaging. I could go on.

    **There is no reason to think any mass shooting involving an AR would have been less deadly had the shooter been armed ‘only’ with pistols.**

    My proposals to directly address the issue of Mass shootings are twofold:

    1. The media needs to stop publishing the name, face, and life story of the perpetrator. If there is no fame or platform associated with these act, they will lose their appeal. These are at their core grotesque acts of publicity.

    2. To take direct and practical action to make children safer, armed security in plain clothes or uniform needs to be present in schools. Or allow teachers to carry after being thoroughly trained. At the end of the day, you call the police so that a good guy with a gun shows up. Why not arm the people you already trust your children with who are already there? Although many would complain that more guns in schools aren’t the answer, the question then becomes, how long would you be willing to wait for the police to show up to defend you or your children?

  2. Jason on February 23rd, 2018 1:26 pm

    If you are not dealing with handguns, you are not addressing the real issue facing the country.

    We need to remember that the AR15 is a symbol of violence and accounts for a fraction of a percent of all gun deaths in the US. An AWB would not be a ‘first step’ toward meaningful change but is more of distraction made possible by its over inflated presence in the media. I don’t necessarily have a problem with the idea of restricting access but it’s realistically impossible to reverse the proliferation of guns in the US and any future policy proposal needs to take that into account.

  3. Midd Alum ‘91 on February 23rd, 2018 4:40 pm

    To Midd ‘16,

    The doctors who treated the Parkland victims disagree with you on the damage done by AR-15s vs that of handguns.

  4. Midd Alum '16 on February 24th, 2018 11:44 am

    Ah, good addition, thanks! Ballistics are a tricky business. As is all of this

    Your article changed my mind since most of my understanding of that comes from penetration testing in gel which would not account for the concussive force.

    Any other points of disagreement or agreement?

    Even given ballistic advantage, I don’t see the calculus of the statistical case changing though.

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This Is Not Normal