by Terry Tait
In the wake of the school shooting in Parkland Florida, which killed 17 students and faculty, the debate over gun control has once again been renewed in America. However, almost twenty years after the Columbine High School Massacre of 1999, little has been done to halt this dangerous epidemic. Public shootings have become more frequent and more intense, as political gridlock continues to prevent an effective dialogue over how we can solve this issue as a nation.
There is no doubt that there is an issue, and there is no shortage of solutions, but each answer is just as contentious as the next. Do we arm teachers? Do we make it harder to purchase guns? Do we buy guns ourselves to protect ourselves and our families? The combination of several very broad and complex topics–safety, mental health, and the right to bear arms–has created intense divisions across the country.
Yet it seems that every time we hear news of another shooting, every time there is a new casualty count, we find ourselves rehashing the same debate for several weeks before it falls to the wayside again. After the newest incident is no longer at the forefront of public debate, all urgency and momentum is lost. This is what happened after Columbine (1999), Aurora (2012), Sandy Hook (2012), Charleston (2015), Orlando (2016), Las Vegas (2017), and the countless others that have occurred in between.
And now, at the height of the latest iteration of this debate, fifteen days after the shooting in Parkland, Florida, another public shooting has taken place at Central Michigan University. I am unsure where the debate over gun control will go in the coming days, weeks, and months, but this country’s track record on this issue is not encouraging. Yet after Parkland, there has been an incredible amount of mobilization by high school students staging demonstrations across the country that I find inspiring. I have found their representation of these violent episodes as an issue not of the political Right or Left–but one of life or death–to be compelling, and representative of a new approach to this long standing topic.
But how long will their energy last? The activism that has taken place over the past several weeks has ensured that this paramount issue is at the forefront of our minds, but I am afraid that it will once again fail to hold our attention. America wants to address public shootings, safety, and mental health, but for this to happen we must commit ourselves to a difficult, public, and apolitical debate. And it is essential that we commit ourselves to maintaining this discussion until a solution is found.
Before this issue intensifies any further, before we see another headline that says “shots fired,” we must recognize that there is no ambiguity in this crisis. All Americans want to be safe in their schools, in their offices, and in their communities. The only question we need to ask is how do we get there?
Terry Tait is a Senior at Miami University studying history with a focus on Middle East studies.