In wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida last week, politicians and citizens alike have been asking for stricter gun control policy. This most recent tragedy even has students calling out government officials on social media. Massachusetts Sen. Edward Markey spoke to residents on Sunday, promising that he will spearhead a vote on gun control in the Senate this year. Markey said that a historic debate is inevitable, despite this GOP led Congress.
While words are not nearly enough, it’s nice to hear a state official speaking up and taking a stand. He’s showing the people of Massachusetts and the rest of the country that he’s committed to bringing this to the Senate floor, while other lawmakers have stayed silent due to controversy or personal conflicts of interest. People stirring up conversation will educate the public, but it’s more meaningful when a person in power vows to make change. Markey’s promises are massive, especially for a country that has systematically failed to put gun regulation in place. This failure is bigger than one person staying silent, it is due to an entire legislative body refusing to listen to its public. While Markey’s words are ultimately a positive message to the survivors and advocates for gun control, in the end they are what they are — words.
One unexpected impact of the Florida shooting has been all of the young people standing up and taking initiative. Age is making a huge difference in this particular tragedy because the survivors of this attack are on social media, sharing their voices and their grievances. They’re also in public, making displays that are hard for Washington officials to ignore. Just yesterday, students laid in front of the White House for three minutes to symbolize how long it took for 17 people to die. Nothing has been more powerful than words and actions from those directly affected by the shooting. Teenagers are making adults more aware of what is happening when adults themselves haven’t taken action. It’s powerful for a victim to come forward and speak, but even more terrifying for an authority figure to look the other way.
But while teens are bringing attention to the issue, they’re not producing action. Lawmakers should be making change at the state level to influence the federal government. Different states have started to address gun control and that continued momentum can lead to legislation on the federal level. Eventually it will become a trend that the national government will be forced to follow. America is held back by a GOP controlled government, but states still have the power to address this gun-filled reality. Massachusetts has long been known as one of the most liberal states in the nation, and should take action to make sure its policy reflects its reputation.
After 20 first graders were killed at Sandy Hook, 17 high schoolers were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, and many others throughout the country at countless other tragedies, one is forced to ask, what else must happen to create a policy to stop this? America wants to see action, not more promises. Citizens want to know that words will turn into movement, that an inadmissible quote at a rally will become a signature on a bill. Persistence is also vital to combatting this issue. Mass shootings bolster conversation but debate slowly drifts off as the catastrophe moves further away on our calendars. The media should continue talking about gun control so that the topic is relevant today and three months from now. We shouldn’t have a spike of dialogue once something so awful forces the discussion. We’ve seen that it will take a lot for policy to be passed, but continued debate and public outrage will set our country on the path to safer schools.