As the United States continues to grapple with the problem of gun violence, young people have reenergized the movement for gun control. The leaders of this reborn movement are young people who have been directly impacted by the issue.
As he surveyed the human rights issues of his time, Robert Kennedy spoke these words to South African students living under the oppressive system of Apartheid:
Our answer is the world's hope; it is to rely on youth. The cruelties and obstacles of this swiftly changing planet will not yield to obsolete dogmas and outworn slogans. It cannot be moved by those who cling to a present which is already dying, who prefer the illusion of security to the excitement and danger which comes with even the most peaceful progress.
This world demands the qualities of youth; not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease.
American youth today have changed the terms of the debate over guns in our culture by refusing to accept as normal the gun violence present in our society.
Katie Lightcap, president of Pacific University’s undergraduate student senate, helped to organize Pacific’s participation in the #NationalWalkoutDay. The Forest Grove News-Times reported on what she told the crowd of 500 students who participated:
Lightcap is from Roseburg, which was shaken on Oct. 1, 2015, by a school shooting at nearby Umpqua Community College.
"Recognizing over half of the names of the victims was like a sucker punch to the gut," she recalled after the rally. "I couldn't believe it."
That personal familiarity with gun violence motivates Lightcap to be involved with this issue, she said.
Since the Parkland shooting last month, after which student survivors of the shooting made appearances in the national media — including a televised CNN town hall in which they directly addressed members of Florida's congressional delegation, the sheriff of Broward County, Fla., and a spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association — some conservative commentators have criticized students for speaking out on the issues of gun violence and gun control, arguing that they are not knowledgeable or experienced enough to speak with authority on the subject.
Lightcap rejected that notion.
"The great thing about being in a democracy is that every person has a voice," she said. "That's why it is a democracy. So in hearing that criticism, like we don't know enough, we aren't old enough to fully understand the breadth of this, I almost want to, like, laugh, because we have been directly impacted. … I have a friend who was shot nine times. She was one of the survivors in the UCC shooting, and she's alive. And so visiting with her and seeing her, they can't tell me that I don't know that."
Many believe that we will never find an answer to gun violence. America’s young people provide evidence that we will.
Students were joined by faculty and staff today at @PacificU for the #NationalWalkoutDay for #GunReformNow. A new generation is rising up to promote a more just world.#GoBoxers #orpol— Pacific U. CPAS (@PacificuCPAS) March 14, 2018
(photos by Pacific student Tanner Boyle). pic.twitter.com/eH4RIXSEZb