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UNC-Chapel Hill March for Our Lives: We will not wait for the next school shooting

UNC-Chapel+Hill+March+for+Our+Lives%3A+We+will+not+wait+for+the+next+school+shooting
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Content warning: The following article contains mentions of gun violence.

Students are taught to love a country that values guns over our lives.

Some of us hear the sound of gunfire when we watch fireworks on the Fourth of July or when we watch a drumline performance at halftime. But all of us have heard the siren of an active shooter drill and fear that one day, our campus will be next.

By painful necessity, we have grown to become much more than students learning in a classroom — we have shed every last remnant of our childhood innocence. The steady silence of Congress is as deafening as gunfire.

We will not wait for individual trauma to affect us all before we respond together — our empathy is not that brittle. Our generation responds to shootings by bearing witness and sharing solidarity like none other. We text each other our last thoughts, and we cry on each others’ shoulders and we mourn with each other at vigils. We convene in classrooms, and we congregate in churches and we deliberate in dining halls. We’re staunch, and we’re stubborn and we’re steadfast.

Our hearts bleed from this uniquely American brand of gun violence. Yet, we still summon the courage to witness firework shows and remind ourselves that we love our country so much that we expect better from it. 

We believe that our country has the capacity to love us back. There are bullet-shaped holes in our hearts, but our spirits are unbreakable.

History has taught us that when injustice calls students to act, we shape the moral arc of this country.

Students in the Civil Rights Movement shared their stories through protest, creating the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) that organized Freedom Rides, sit-ins, and marches. In demanding freedom from racial violence, this group’s activism became woven into American history. 

Students across America organized teach-ins during the Vietnam War to expose its calculated cruelties — in doing so, rediscovering this country’s empathy. Their work, in demanding freedom from conscription and taxpayer-funded violence, is intertwined with the American story.

This fall, UNC-Chapel Hill students’ text exchanges during the Aug. 28 shooting reached the hands of the president. The nation read the desperate words of our wounded community, as we organized support, rallied and got thrown out of the North Carolina General Assembly. We demanded freedom from gun violence, just as we have in Parkland and Sandy Hook and MSU and UNLV.

For 360,000 of us since Columbine, the toll of bearing witness, of losing our classmates and friends, of succumbing to the cursed emotional vocabulary of survivorship has become our American story.

Yes, it is not fair that we must rise up against problems that we did not create, but the organizers of past student movements know from lived experience that we decide the future of the country.

The country watched student sit-ins at Greensboro, North Carolina, and Congress subsequently passed civil rights legislation. The country witnessed as students exposed its lies on Vietnam, and Congress subsequently withdrew from the war. 

In recent years, the country watched student survivors march against gun violence, and the White House subsequently created the National Office of Gun Violence Prevention on Sep. 22. 

So, as students and young people alike, we should know our words don’t end on this page — we will channel them into change. 

We invite you to join this generation’s community of organizers, all of us united in demanding a future free of gun violence. We understand the gravity of this commitment because it’s not simply our lives we protect with prose and protest. It is our way of life itself. 

We will not allow America to be painted in a new layer of blood. We will not allow politicians to gamble our lives for NRA money.

And most of all, politicians will not have the shallow privilege of reading another front-cover op-ed by students on their knees, begging them to do their jobs — we do not need a permission slip to defend our freedoms. They will instead contend with the reality that by uniting with each other and among parents, educators and communities, our demands become undeniable. 

We feel intense anger and frustration and sadness, and in its wake, we search for reaffirmations of our empathy — the remarkable human capacity to take on a tiny part of someone else’s suffering. We rediscover this fulfillment in our organizing, in our community, in not just moving away from the unbearable pain of our yesterday but in moving toward an unrelenting hope for our tomorrow.

Our generation dares politicians to look us in the eye and tell us they’re too afraid to try.

Signed by 144 student leaders representing 90 groups across the nation:

List of Sign-Ons: STUDENT LEADERS ACROSS THE COUNTRY 

____________________________________________________________________

 

Editor’s Note: This op-ed is a coordinated effort to raise awareness for the glaring issue of gun violence in this nation, and I am humbled by the opportunity to join such an effort. Regardless of your personal view toward gun violence, it is undeniable that something drastic within our society must change; this effort only presses the issue further. Will we ignore it at our own peril? 

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    David Jackson | Jan 28, 2024 at 1:01 pm

    “Students are taught to love a country that values guns over our lives.”

    Nearly all mass public shootings, and all school shootings have occurred in so called gun-free zones due to gun control laws. Yet, eliminating such zones are never on the list of policies to “change” whenever needing to do something is demanded. It’s almost like the activists are more concerned with seeking attention to feel important than conducting a comprehensive review of the factors involved.

    “By painful necessity, we have grown to become much more than students learning in a classroom — we have shed every last remnant of our childhood innocence. The steady silence of Congress is as deafening as gunfire.”

    If you were remotely serious about addressing the issue instead of writing self-righteous slam poetry, you’d be significantly more concerned about why these events are occurring in the first place and not being a pawn for those in the seats of political power which seek to disarm the people they wish to control.

    “Our hearts bleed from this uniquely American brand of gun violence. Yet, we still summon the courage to witness firework shows and remind ourselves that we love our country so much that we expect better from it.”

    It’s not unique to America, that’s just what the corporate media which you’ve abdicated your thoughts to tells you to think.

    “History has taught us that when injustice calls students to act, we shape the moral arc of this country.”

    I don’t suppose it even began to cross your mind that the moral arc of this country is the root cause of this? People used to be able to buy magazine fed firearms in hardware stores with nothing resembling a background check, and school mass shootings were statistically non-existent. What changed? It sure isn’t the guns, as access to them and their types have only gotten more restricted over time. It couldn’t possibly be the moral arc of this country and its production rate of broken homes, mental illness, pharmacological over prescription, and nihilistic moral rot sold as personal liberation, could it?

    “Students in the Civil Rights Movement shared their stories through protest, creating the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) that organized Freedom Rides, sit-ins, and marches. In demanding freedom from racial violence, this group’s activism became woven into American history.”

    When are the students organizing a root cause analysis session that hasn’t predetermined the political policy outcomes they want to reach before analyzing the evidence? Think about that for a minute. It’s almost like keeping you in a state of emotion insulates you from ever thinking about whether or not what you’re demanding would actually solve the problem.

    Seriously. Are these students getting politically vocal because they have new ideas they can prove will help with an issue, or because they’re young and passionate yet inexperienced, and thus the perfect target for emotional rhetoric used to push political agendas more mature and experienced minds wouldn’t support?

    What laws do you want passed, and what evidence do you have that they would help? Because without that, you’re just a useful idiot for someone else’s agenda. In this case, it’s destroying the Bill of Rights under the guise of moralizing slogans.

    A few facts to consider:

    The usual demands are that so called “assault weapons of war” and “high-capacity magazine feeding devices” should be banned, even though according to DOJ National Institute of Justice research the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994-2004 didn’t prevent any mass shootings, and had no statistically significant effect on violent crime. Magazines holding over 10rds don’t enable higher casualties in mass shootings either, as most occur in so called “gun free zones” where the attacker isn’t forced to seek cover from any armed opposition when reloading, so reloading time isn’t a factor in the number of people they can kill. Moreover, Australia’s gun ban, often cited as a success, didn’t reduce either suicide or homicide rates below the long term trend they were already on, showing no statistical significance.

    Universal background checks wouldn’t prevent any mass school shooting, nor put a stop to the majority of shootings in the US which are gangland shootings in large, politically deep blue, metro cities. Most of these attackers could either pass one due to inept handling of criminal and mental health records if such records exist.

    Over half of mass shooters were diagnosed with a mental disorder or had demonstrated signs of serious mental illness before their attacks, however now if you dare mention gender dysphoria is a mental condition (Perry IA, Nashville, TN) there’s a bunch of political ideologies ready to denounce you as a bigot. Good luck treating people properly before violence in that environment.

    So what exactly are the signatories of this document proposing, and what facts do they have to support it?

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