One Year After Parkland, the Silence Is Still Deafening
The United States of America: the land of the free, and the home of the mass shooting. In a nation where gun violence has become an epidemic, approximately 100 Americans are killed by guns every day. Statistics show firearms are the second leading cause of death for children in America, and the most common cause of death for African American children and teens. Given this data, one could assume that solving this issue would be at the forefront of American society, politics, and media. But that assumption has proven itself to be true only in the immediate days or weeks following a highly publicized mass shooting.
In the weeks following a mass shooting, the public discourse shifts toward gun control: how we can prevent these tragedies from happening again, how we can stay faithful to and protect our kids, and how to become a safer nation. After those few short weeks, full of calls for legislation and safer public spaces, the gun violence conversation disappears dramatically in favor of more recent scandals and top stories.
The one main exception in this data coincides with the founding of the student-led organization March for Our Lives, which was organized by students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the site of a school shooting that took place on February 14, 2018. This became known as the Parkland shooting, where 17 students and staff were killed and 14 others were injured. March for Our Lives quickly brought the conversation regarding gun violence in America to the national forefront, a conversation specifically geared toward school shootings. These courageous and fearless students battered politicians, called for stricter gun control, and made a palpable, lasting impact on the discussion of gun violence in America.
In the months following the Parkland shooting, Americans supported more expansive gun control at the highest rate since the early 1990s. This public approval was inextricably tied to the MSD students’ relentless activism and establishment of March for Our Lives. This spike in support for legislation was fervent while it lasted, but after a few months, it had fallen back to the average it has steadily hovered at for the past few years.
Following the same trend as the American public’s view on gun control, media coverage of gun violence naturally spikes following a mass shooting but then tends to steadily decline after a week or so of intense coverage. This tendency of media outlets to let gun violence fall to the wayside has to end if we want to see real change in the gun violence of America, and polls show that a majority of Americans do want to see a change in favor of gun control.
The media is not the only culprit when it comes to letting the issue of gun violence fall through the cracks. Many of our politicians act as if it is their primary duty to not discuss gun violence any more than they absolutely have to. Our policymakers are as divided as ever when it comes to gun control, and as a result, there is little hope for bipartisan gun control legislation in the near future.
A majority of politicians who do not support stricter gun control accept monetary donations from the National Rifle Association and see any form of gun control as an attack on the Second Amendment. There are two important things to say to those politicians: first, advocates for gun control are calling to save American lives, not to violate or attack the Second Amendment. Secondly, the NRA does not represent the legislative preferences of the American people. Once politicians accept these two statements, we can logically and morally continue the discussion for a change in gun control.
In order to end this epidemic, our policymakers have to understand and internalize that it is their duty to represent the best interests of their constituents, not to represent the NRA. If we do not make a change in legislation, there will continue to be shooting after shooting that will be forgotten after a few days of media and political coverage, just like the 43 mass shootings that have already happened in 2019. We have to decide what is more important to us as Americans - saving lives and creating a safer nation, or submitting to campaign finance with the caveat of continuing this cycle of mass homicide to which we have become numb.