Editorial: Sided With the NRA in 2017? We’re Voting You Out In 2018


Meara Sauer

MSHS students have put together a, “Walk Out for Student Lives,” where on March 14 at 10 a.m. they will walk out of the school and join at the Mustang Plaza for 17 minutes for the 17 lives lost in the Parkland shooting. All students are welcome– but not required– to participate, and will be no repercussions from the administration as long as all students are back in their classes at 10:40. We can be the generation to end school shootings. Now is the time to show up.

Aubrey Hall, Student Life Editor

On February 14, Nikolas Jacob Cruz shot and killed 17 people and injured 14, making the mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida one of the deadliest school massacres in U.S. history. When I came home that day, my parents asked how I was feeling about it, and I didn’t know how to tell them that I wasn’t feeling anything, or how incredibly normal it felt to see the CNN alert on my phone and go about my day. I don’t know how to explain to anyone that if I ached for kids halfway across the country (kids who just as easily could have been myself and my classmates), I would never stop aching. Columbine happened the year I was born, meaning that have never lived in a world where this does not regularly happen. I am growing up in a generation that has adopted numbness as a survival mechanism. There is no deep-seated sense of horror surrounding school shootings, but rather acceptance of the ever-present idea that pursuing an education in the United States is not a safe thing to do. It doesn’t feel human to watch students weep at having lost their classmates without batting an eye. It feels as if I am experiencing childhood in a culture that cannot be bothered to protect children. This feeling ends now for one simple reason: if lawmakers refuse to protect young people, we will vote them out.

When Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December of 2012, my seventh grade classmates and I, just old enough to fully grasp the magnitude of what had happened, walked into Language Arts the next day debating the pros and cons of arming educators. Our teacher assigned us articles to read which argued for and against gun control and discussed the ramifications of Columbine and other school shootings which we had been alive for. All of these left us with far more questions than answers, but more than anything, with the knowledge that we could just as easily be next. If someone had a desire to kill us at school, we concluded, they would find a way to make it happen. We wondered aloud what would happen if a shooter charged into our classroom. Would our teacher protect us? We all knew her daughters, knew that she had a family and a life outside of that building. Would we protect her? Ultimately, that question has been asked far too many times, and is the problem with the proposition that school teachers should be armed, or should be tasked with protecting their students against bullets. Education should be one of the safest careers that a person could possibly pursue. Teachers have just as much of a right to go to work safely as students do. When the debate concluded, we all pleaded with the universe and other assorted forms of higher power that the slaughter of children would be enough to end these mass killings. It was not.

Coloradans are not merely one piece of a national conversation, but an important measurement of what progress, or lack thereof, has been achieved in the last 19 years. In a way, Colorado is the birthplace of our nation’s grimmest ritual, and since Columbine, lawmakers have sent enough thoughts and prayers to accomplish exactly nothing. A great deal of school-specific legislation has been blurry in terms of parameters, and though the intention behind them is well-meaning, legislation that only places liability for such atrocities on individual school districts merely places onus on educators rather than lawmakers and arms manufacturers. It is putting a bandaid on a problem that begins in a gun-centric culture, and while schools are attempting to increase security measures and keep students from being slaughtered, members of our GOP-dominated state senate just passed a bill that would allow Coloradans to carry concealed weapons without a permit. It would be foolish of us to, as a state and as a nation, ignore the easier solution. Rather than asking schools to invest in heightened security measures on already limited budgets, perhaps we could limit the sale of assault-style weapons, or even put the same training and permit provisions in place that are required of a person who wishes to drive a car. A study published in 2016 establishes a strong link between states whose schools are at low risk for school shootings, and states which have mandatory background checks for gun and ammunition purchases, higher spending on mental health programs, and higher spending on K-12 education. With these factors in mind, is it so outrageous that we demand our lawmakers do better to reallocate resources and draft legislation that promotes safer schools and communities? Is it so outrageous that I ask my lawmakers to protect my little brother and I at school every day, and become upset when they continue to pocket campaign money from gun lobbying agencies?

When you’ve never existed in a world where school gun violence is not more-or-less the norm, it’s very easy to feel helpless in the face of such intimidating power structures. However, Emma Gonzalez (who now has more Twitter followers than the NRA), as well as other teen survivors of the Parkland shooting, are becoming the face of a generation whose silence cannot be bought. In her now viral speech following the shooting Gonzalez placed a strong emphasis on the importance of political engagement, as well as holding legislators accountable for the money that they taking from lobbying groups. This is perhaps one of the most important notes in this national conversation.

Lawmakers such as Speaker of the House Paul Ryan have taken millions of dollars in campaign funds from the NRA and other gun rights groups, which largely serves as an explanation for their refusal to draft legislation that would prevent guns from falling into the hands of those who wish to harm children. Many Colorado representatives and senators, including Mike Coffman, who received $30,843; Scott Tipton, who received $25,550; Ken Buck, who received $14,444; Doug Lamborn, who received $3,000; and Cory Gardner, who received $3,879,064 (the fifth highest amount of money received by any senator in the entire country) have refused time and time again to take action on common sense gun safety legislation that would protect their most vulnerable constituents. It is the responsibility of students and teachers, no matter which side of the aisle they may sit on, to go to the polls consistently in order to address such a public safety crisis. If legislators refuse to address such a pivotal issue, we will vote them out. We, as young people, have every power and capacity to enact change all across the country, and our democracy will remain in the hands of special interest groups until we seize it from them.

We thought it would stop after Columbine, then after Virginia Tech, then after Newtown, and now we, as a country, stand once more in the wake of yet another earth-shattering tragedy. This isn’t about someone’s right to bear arms, it’s about my right to pursue an education without accepting that my life may end in the process. It’s about taking our lives from the hands of lawmakers and choosing to arm ourselves with them. Senator Gardner, Representative Lamborn, and countless others who have chosen time and time again to side with the National Rifle Association and against your own children: your day of reckoning is coming. Come election day, we will not be holding AR-15s, but we will be holding ballots. Stand with us or fall completely.