Pacific Grove High #WalkoutDay Letter

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Written by Luke Herzog and Reem Benny

It’s been said that when your leaders act like children, and your children act like leaders, you know change is coming. The 115th Congress is one of the oldest in history. Americans are, on average, two decades younger than their representatives. We high schoolers are a whole lot younger still. Yes, age is accompanied by experience, but youth offers a fresh take on an entirely unacceptable pattern — students being gunned down in places that are supposed to represent hope for the future.

Conspiracy theorists and gun lobby apologists have denounced Stoneman Douglas High School students as “crisis actors,” when in reality they are crisis activists. Survivors turned anguish into action, exhibiting courage not only on that tragic day, but also–especially–in the days that followed. Today, March 14th, students across the nation have followed their lead, lending their voices to call out elected representatives for refusing to see the writing on the wall.

Meanwhile, detractors distract. They overlook the arguments of student advocates by disparaging the number of times we’ve rounded the sun. Variations on the theme “too young to understand politics” have flooded the national dialogue. Well, there is one thing that we teenagers do understand — class. Our leaders clearly haven’t done their homework, so here is a crash course. Call it Common Sense 101.

 

Math. On average, guns are used to kill approximately 13,000 Americans each year. Between 1966 and 2012, almost one-third of mass shootings globally occurred in the United States. This phenomenon is not surprising; there are enough firearms in the U.S. to arm every adult with room to spare. We make up 5% of the world’s population; we own nearly half the world’s guns. The frequency of gun massacres has only accelerated. In 2017, there were 346 recorded domestic mass shootings — nearly one per day. Already this year, hundreds of children and teenagers have been killed or injured by a firearm, and there have been dozens of mass shootings. These numbers are bleak, but there are paths toward a solution.

Physics. The semi-automatic AR-15, which can fire off 45 rounds per minute, has quickly become the weapon of choice for mass shooters in the United States. Deadlier automatic guns can fire hundreds of rounds per minute. With these self-loading military-style rifles, aim is almost immaterial. In contrast, a musket, the tool of our Founding Fathers during the passing of the 2nd Amendment, managed about three rounds per minute in the hands of an experienced soldier, and its accuracy was dismal. The AR-15 is an assault weapon, not a weapon of defense nor a weapon of hunters. It is a weapon of war.

History. Educators teach us that we learn history to avoid repeating it. On April 28, 1996, a man in Port Arthur, Australia, killed 35 people and wounded 18 others with none other than an AR-15. Within weeks, elected officials within Australia worked together to ban semi-automatic and other military-style weapons. They introduced a nationwide gun buyback program to encourage their citizens to freely give up their weapons. There has been only one mass shooting since (with a handgun), and rates of homicide and suicide dropped dramatically. In 2014, in a nation of 24 million people, there were just 32 gun-related homicides. In contrast, more than 500 people in Chicago alone were shot dead last year. The histories of these two nations have diverged radically, and there is one obvious reason.

Economics. The National Rifle Association represents gun manufacturers. Thus, their defense of “gun rights” is not about principle; it is about profit. The NRA spent over $5.1 million in 2017 on lobbying. The goal is not to “…promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis” (as stated by one of its founders in 1871), but rather to advance an agenda as a front for the gun industry. The American public is demanding sensible steps regarding gun regulation, yet the NRA simply aims to boost demand for guns.

Psychology. Opponents of gun control claim that mass shootings are a mental health issue, but research published in the American Journal of Public Health indicates that this has little correlation with gun homicide. Of 120,000 incidents between 2001 and 2010, only five percent of shooters had a diagnosed mental illness. And, of course, mental illness is a global phenomenon; gun accessibility is distinctly American.

English. The 2nd Amendment says this: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” However, a gun enthusiast is not a member of a “well regulated militia,” an assault rifle has nothing to do with security, an amendment is inherently not a commandment, and the right to bear arms should never trump our right to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

 

In conclusion, we American students are tired of our safety being second to the interests of gun lobbies, and we ask that you take immediate and significant action to protect our rights instead of theirs.

 

Written by Luke Herzog (11th grade) and Reem Benny (12th grade)