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Shooting Sparks Student Activism

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Photo credit: Hunter Abney

guncontrol
Written by: Communicator StaffMarch 21, 2018

Written By: Ben Bailey

Guns are again at the forefront of political discussion in the United States.

On Feb. 14, a gunman entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida and opened fire killing 17 students and injuring many others

As a result of the shooting, policy makers, news media outlets and the public are addressing and analyzing questions about the place of guns in society.

However, unlike other recent mass shootings, the public outcry from the Parkland shooting has been lead mostly by students and young people. In particular, some of the loudest voices have been students who survived Parkland shooting.

David Hogg, a student who survived, has spoken out for more gun control and against the preported influence of the National Rifle Association in Congress. Hogg has amassed over 475,000 followers on Twitter supporting the #neveragain movement.

Alongside the student survivors, young people across the country are voicing their opinions regarding the controversial issues of gun reform and mental health.

Students nationwide participated in a class walkout on March 14, which marked one month since the shooting in Parkland. The walkouts, which were largely organized by students, were used to call for gun reform and to honor the victims of the Parkland shooting.

Brian Geyer, a senior at Antwerp High School, planned a walkout with classmate Kaitlyn Clevinger.

“Honestly, I wasn’t sure if we were even going to be able to have the walkout,” Geyer said. “Our principal didn’t seem to have a problem with it, so we decided to walkout at 10 o’clock.”

Geyer said he only expected about three or four students to join the walkout. On the day of the walkout, 136 Antwerp High School students walked out of class.

While some walkouts around the nation were held mostly to promote gun restrictions, Geyer said the walkout at his school was different.

“To a lot of the people who walked out, it wasn’t for gun laws, it was just to honor those Parkland kids,” Geyer said. “We also had a prayer, and it wasn’t for more gun laws, it was for the kids.”

Geyer said that he believes more restrictions on guns are needed, but it was important that walkouts at schools be unifying.

“The march in Washington D.C., is a place to get those opinions heard, but at a school, we need to be a unifying force,” Geyer said.

The march Geyer referenced is the “March for our Lives” event that is being held in Washington D.C., on March 24. The march was organized by mostly young supporters of the #neveragain movement, and organizers are expecting nearly 500,000 people to attend the event.

Elliot Bartky who is a political science professor and staff advisor to the College Republicans at IPFW, said the discussions, even including statistics, over gun reform and mental health after events like the Parkland shooting can sometimes be misleading.

“Statistics can be used for any purpose. They can mean anything and they can help people make the argument they want to make,” Bartky said.

Additionally, Bartky said the Second Amendment is not as simple as liberals or conservatives would like it to be.

At IPFW, the College Republicans and College Democrats put aside their differences and engaged in discussions regarding gun reform.

“I’m so impressed by the Democratic and Republican leadership on our campus. They came together to issue a public statement,” Bartky said. “They used politics to work together.”

Bartky also said that while the College Democrats and Republicans did have lots of differences on the issue, the discussions that were held between the groups were productive and successful.

“Most people are in the middle of this issue, and they don’t speak out,” Bartky said. “The people who speak out are on the extremes, which makes reaching a compromise more difficult.”

Finally, Bartky said the discussions held by IPFW students were encouraging and important, and leaders on both sides of the issue should pursue constructive conversations similar to these.