Two facts. First, last week Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill raising the minimum age for purchasing rifles in Florida from 18 to 21. The bill also expanded the handgun waiting period to cover long guns, ban bump stocks and create a program allowing some school personnel to carry guns (I guess we can’t have it all).
Second, the National Rifle Association has already sued the Florida government to stop what it considers an “unconstitutional” law.
What does this tell us? Well, for starters, Scott can only make a good decision if he pairs it with a bad one. Also, if this wasn’t obvious before, the NRA doesn’t care about your safety, my safety, children’s safety, teachers’ safety … All the NRA cares about is selling more guns.
It’s not all bad news, though. My biggest takeaway from last week’s decisions is this: Student-led activism works. If we listen when young people talk, our legislature can make progress toward common-sense gun control laws. We can enhance the safety of our schools and other public spaces. Education can nurture activism, and activism can nurture education.
This conclusion, however, comes with a few important caveats. We must add our voices to those who call on our elected officials to take action, through email, social media, phone calls and — arguably, most impactfully — our votes. The midterm elections are not as far away as they seem. The election isn’t until Nov. 6, but it’s never too early to ensure you’re registered to vote in your state and up-to-date on the issues at hand. Apathy and complacency helped get us where we are today, and I for one cannot stand to see our government led in part by an organization as conniving and ill-intentioned as the NRA. Can you?
We must also make certain we do not ignore the messages of other activists in our efforts to support some of them. For example, last week in Baltimore, Mayor Catherine Pugh announced the city would spend up to $100,000 funding transportation for local students to attend the “March For Our Lives” protest for gun control in Washington, D.C.
Why? Because Baltimore students have been rallying against gun violence for much longer than news organizations have paid attention. The public often neglects the outcry from people in areas of lower socioeconomic status and students of minority backgrounds. This needs to change if we are going to enact real policy shifts to protect more people from gun violence.
It’s not just Baltimore, either. Take a look at Chicago, where students have yet to receive the same kind of media spotlight and still experience tragedy after tragedy when it comes to gun violence. We need to hear their voices, too, at the Washington, D.C., rally and beyond.
The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have amplified the gun safety movement, forcing the public and our politicians to confront an issue long pushed aside in the name of thoughts and prayers. Parkland activists have organized a protest around which other students can rally and express themselves. As supporters and listeners, we cannot forget about the students in places like Baltimore, Chicago and beyond who have been calling for this change for years.
Education can help inspire and fortify activism. But without activism, it seems as though we cannot have safe places for our education. At the end of the day, if our children, our students, our parents, our teachers and our friends aren’t safe — if we aren’t safe — what are we really doing here?
Mia Gettenberg is a UF criminology and philosophy senior. Her column focuses on education.