One of the most significant and unlikely political movements involving constitutional policy in United States history may have started Valentine’s Day, 2018. That day a mentally unbalanced teenager caught an Uber ride to his former high school in Parkland , Florida, and with his legally acquired assault rifle rained fire and bloody death on 17 students and teachers, and left a dozen others with injuries.
It’s an old story, right? Another week, another mass shooting; another month, another school shooting. As news reports start coming in, the first question that comes to mind is “how many this time?” Then come the whys—why here? why now? why does this keep happening? why can’t we stop this? But the first question is the only question that ever seems to get answered, and that comes pretty quickly. Seventeen, fifty-nine, forty-nine, nine, thirty-two, fourteen, twenty-six, fourteen, twenty-six….
And then the whys just stop coming and are left unanswered after a few days, or a week—the time before forgetting them just depends on the numbers (only three?), or depends on the relative heinousness (children? church-goers?). The demands for changes to gun laws fade to silence as lawmakers assure us that it is too early, it is a time for healing, it is a time for deep thoughts and piteous prayer. Changes can be made when cooler heads prevail. Like….never. Then February the 14th happened. The grim circumstance presented the same questions and the same silence… but not for long. Perhaps it began with two heartbroken students talking between themselves, maybe more; perhaps it got networked through Facebook or Snapchat or Instagram… but however it developed, it was soon viral. It seems for the first time a political movement has the potential of affecting some serious changes to laws dealing with firearms, and possibly even shaking the Second Amendment from its perception as being the most inviolable of all rights, which all but allows every individual to become one’s own personal military arsenal.
At last, a group has seized on the opportunity created from horror, the same horror that has created so many missed opportunities before. And that group —the movers of the movement, the spirit that drives it—are the students themselves. Fourteen to eighteen year-olds, mainly. This is the most unlikely part of it, though on second thought, it shouldn’t necessarily be so. Most of them can’t even vote. But it is a matter of self defense, after all. What else can they do? There are no grown-ups in the room. It started with Parkland students speaking loudly and often this past weekend, and seems to be attracting young students in other parts of the country. Today a lie-in was held by students in the D. C. area near the White House. They are saying “these are our lives and dreams being shattered, and we will have something to say about it… if we can’t vote, we’ll be in the streets; and when we can vote, all of you NRA puppets will be out of here!” Plans have been announced for a “massive rally against school and gun violence in Washington, D.C., on March 24, with smaller rallies and protests in cities around the U.S.,” reported NPR yesterday. Women’s March organizers have planned a nationwide walk out of schools to protest gun violence. This seems to be a cause created for humanists. NOSHANs have been active in making their views seen and heard at events during the last few years, including several members going to Baton Rouge to join with other groups in a counter-rally to then-Governor Jindal’s love fest and rally with the American Family Association on the LSU campus; participating in two Women’s Marches; joining in with the March for Science last Spring, and a curbside sign-waving rally on Clearview Parkway in objection to the Hobby Lobby corporation’s decision to refuse including payment for contraceptives in their employees’ insurance plan (which later became the landmark Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby case heard before the Supreme Court).
If students of local schools plan a version of this march for our area, we belong with them; if they don’t, perhaps we should take it on ourselves to become a visual or vocal presence on this issue. It would be an opportunity to show our solidarity with our young citizens, our children and grandchildren; and, for once, it can be an opportunity not missed.
The Humanist Advocate~ report by Marty Bankson