Keep Your Thoughts and Prayers, We Want Change

BY ARMIN NOURI

Students participate in a march in support of the National School Walkout in the Queens borough of New York City, New York, U.S., March 14, 2018. (REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)

April 20, 1999; fourteen killed. “Never again,” we said.

And then we moved on.

Dec. 14, 2012; twenty-seven killed. “This can’t keep happening,” we cried.

And then we moved on.

Oct. 1, 2017; fifty-eight killed. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims,” we tweeted.

And then we moved on.

As a nation, we seem to have a case of short-term amnesia when it comes to mass shootings. Every time one happens, it goes the same way: cries of outrage, followed by demands for tighter gun laws, followed by resistance to said tighter gun laws. It dominates the news cycle for one or two weeks, and then we forget about it and move on to the next controversy or scandal being aired. It happens so often that it’s become morbidly formulaic; people have become so desensitized and pessimistic about it that, as of 2015, less than 40 percent of Americans thought that there was anything that could be done about this. However, that was before Parkland.

Something is different this time, about this town. Media coverage for the Parkland shooting is higher now than it has been for other shootings at the same point in their cycle and, even as that coverage drops, the conversation about gun control has stayed on the news and on people’s minds.

So the question becomes why? What makes this one any different?

Experts are giving credit largely to Parkland’s survivors-turned-activists, and I’d have to agree. Unlike the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting – mostly young children – these young men and women are old enough to speak their minds. Unlike the victims of the Las Vegas shooting – most of whom were visiting from across the country – the Parkland survivors all share the same hometown and live in close proximity to one another. This shared sense of community and close proximity allows them to more efficiently organize what is quickly becoming a movement – their movement. They’ve been in constant contact with the media, giving interviews and participating in town halls so as to not let this tragedy slip out of our minds, as well as helping to push a mass social media movement pressuring companies to cut ties with the National Rifle Association (NRA), which is working.

Perhaps even more impressively, they appear to have swayed many Republicans to their side, as the same poll cited at the beginning of the article also shows an increase in the number of Republicans who support tightening restrictions on who can purchase guns. This is likely due to comments made by Republican leadership, like Sen. Marco Rubio, Gov. Rick Scott, and even President Trump himself in favor of tighter legislation under pressure from these activists.

Now, while all this may seem promising for gun control activists, there is still very much reason to doubt that Republican lawmakers in Congress will heed these calls for tighter legislation, as they seem very much content to ride out this storm in silence. But does this mean that this movement is doomed to failure if no legislation is passed, even after all these young men and women have accomplished?

Well, not exactly.

There have been studies that have documented the effects of formative events like this one on the political socialization of people in late adolescence to young adulthood, which is, coincidentally, the age range the Parkland survivors and many of their high school counterparts fall into. It is, to say the least, a very important time for the development of their political views. If members of this generation, one that has grown up on mass shootings and terrorist attacks, feel that the GOP does not have their best interests at heart…well, then it’s a good thing many of them will be able to vote this November.

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