Opinion: Congress Has Left the Building


Jay Baker

Rally to Prevent Gun Violence at Annapolis, MD via Flickr

Every year on February 14th, people across the world celebrate Valentine’s day — a day dedicated to cherishing the people you love and the sanctity of family and friendship. Yet on February 14th, 2018, this celebration of love and life was cut short in Parkland, Florida, when a troubled individual killed 17 people and injured 14 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school using a legally-bought AR-15 rifle. Not only does this tragic event mark the worst school shooting since Sandy Hook in 2012, but it marks the 18th incident of gun violence on a school campus in 2018.

The reaction that followed was typical to that of the reactions that followed so many of the recent shootings, which many have become desensitized to. Outrage and shock as people ask themselves and each other how things like this keep happening in our country. Cries to politicians to do something and to pass some sort of legislation that will prevent this from happening in the future are heard for several days. And before any real political progress is made, or any meaningful conversation had, people forget and move on with their lives.

Only this time, there is a loud group of youth who will never forget. The surviving students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have not, nor will they ever, forget what happened. They have made it their mission in the last week to ensure that the cycle of inactivity and political ineptitude associated with school shootings does not continue. Many students have gone beyond sharing views and demanding political action — on February 17th, five Parkland students announced the “March for our Lives” movement, a march on Washington that will take place on March 24, 2018 to promote increased gun control. Inspired and invigorated by this initiative, satellite movements are popping up around the country, including movements in Sacramento and in San Francisco. On the same day, several Parkland students addressed a gun control rally in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, including a chilling speech from senior Emma Gonzalez, who states, “if us students have learned anything, it’s that if you don’t study, you will fail. And in this case if you actively do nothing, people continually end up dead, so it’s time to start doing something.”

She’s right —  every time a similar situation arises, while promises are made, nothing gets accomplished. We can blame our politicians for getting nothing done, but at some point we need to blame ourselves for expecting anything different from them. There is a worrying trend of NRA lobbying funds steadily rising for over a decade. The more debate there is on gun control, the harder the NRA pushes politicians to adopt their agenda. It is naive to assume that simply opening debate on this issue is going to change things. We know the stance of politicians who accept money from the NRA, and we know how unwilling they are to budge from that stance even in the face of tragedies like these. As the idiom goes, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

So what can we do? A whole lot, actually — the students of Parkland, most of whom are under voting age, have proven this. Because of their passion and activism, the entire country stands behind them demanding gun reform and accountability of politicians on this issue. You can do the same. As Parkland junior Cameron Kasky states, “I can see that there is desperate need for change — change that starts by folks showing up to the polls and voting all those individuals who are in the back pockets of gun lobbyists out of office… We can’t vote, but you can, so make it count.”

While Foothill College may seem far removed from the Parkland high school, we are both affected by the same federal gun laws in the same way. It is terrifying to consider, but there is little preventing what happened at Parkland from happening here at home, so don’t waste time and wait for others to change things — be the change you want to see. Call your state Assembly and Senate representatives and members of Congress, let them know what you think, and threaten to vote them out of office if they don’t comply. Put pressure on them whenever and wherever you can to prevent them from kicking this can down the road. Attend the March For Our Lives events happening nearby, and spread the message. And above all, don’t forget about what’s happened here by the end of next week. It’s time we showed politicians that we the people, not lobbyists and corporate donors, decide policy in this country.