This Is Not Normal

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

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 NRAblog.org. 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.

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.