Young Americans must honor Parkland victims with active citizenship

Young Americans must honor Parkland victims with active citizenship

Last week, a gunman entered Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, pulled the fire alarm and open-fired a legally acquired semi-automatic weapon on students aged 14 to 18. The community is devastated. Several fallen students were laid to rest as heroes and three even received honors from their ROTC program. 

Again and again, the young men and women who so tragically lost their lives have been heralded as exceptional people. Mightier still are the voices of the students that watched their friends and classmates perish and have taken their private mourning to streets, podiums and TV interviews to champion gun control policies they believe will help prevent history from repeating itself. Gun control has proven time and time again to be a matter of life and death. As young people, the power to change the course of history is in our hands. We must not squander it.

It is absolutely disgusting that we have allowed mass shootings to spread like wildfire and happen at such a high frequency. There is no excuse for our inaction other than petty political disagreement. Congress is playing political chess with the lives of children so that they might not lose the assault rifle owner vote. Voters do not hire their representatives to get re-elected. Voters hire their representatives because they promise them happier, safer and more efficient lives. If your congressman is not supporting proactive gun legislature, your congressman is valuing your vote above your life. He is not doing his job.

Parkland students have surrendered their privacy in exchange for the potential to change the national standard for school shootings and gun violence. Their bravery is astounding. Early last week, students and families alike marched on the Florida State Capital building and carried signs bearing the slogans of their protest, chanting “shame on you” as they marched.

Their words are sobering and resonant. Shame on those who value a person’s right to owning a semi-automatic weapon over the safety of schoolchildren everywhere. Shame on those who use the lives of the populace as a political bargaining chip. Shame on those who ridicule these children and say that they have no knowledge of political matters so they should not speak. Shame on the politicians that have used this tragedy to categorize the students’ reactions as whiny, privileged and purposely inflammatory in an attempt to divert attention from the policies they don’t want to change because changing them will mean the end of their political careers.

Last week, Senator Marco Rubio hosted a town hall with Parkland students and parents and many were quick to criticize the hostility of the crowd and claim the students were “rude and lecturing” to the senator. These families lost their children. These children lost their best friends. Dismissing them as bratty, privileged youth or even insinuating that any of the students were paid actors is cowardice. Rubio showed up, which is more than other members of his party can say, but we cannot stop there. The students are giving the nation the best example of holding its leaders accountable.  

If you want to help those affected by this tragedy, you will honor them with your votes. Write to your congressmen and women and let them know that if they accept donations from the NRA, your vote is as good as gone. Call them. Participate in protest. Make them hear you. The lives of our nation’s children depend on legislation and legislation depends on our vote. 

Late millennials and early Generation Z citizens are no longer excused from skipping out on elections or remaining in the dark about candidate platforms because they don’t have the time or don’t care enough to educate themselves. UA students in particular are not excused from voting in state and local elections because they’re not from Alabama. Out of state students spend at least nine months a year in Alabama and are allowed to register to vote as citizens of Tuscaloosa. Most of the time, Alabama is your home. Take pride in it and work for its advancement because your life and the lives of our children may someday depend on it.

We have a solution to the madness–or at least a very good start–at our fingertips. Though we should have risen to this magnitude of action long ago, how we cast our votes this midterm season will truly make a difference if we dedicate ourselves to active citizenship and the safety of the American people. 

Emma Royal is a sophomore majoring in aerospace engineering. Her column runs biweekly. 

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