AFTER LAST year’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, it quickly became clear that students who had survived the horror weren’t willing to let their murdered classmates and teachers become just another statistic in America’s unending carnage of gun violence. They demanded change and ignited a grass-roots movement that has given youthful new vigor to the fight for gun safety. Now, these young activists have put forward a bold gun-control proposal that aims to reframe the debate on gun policy.
The ambitious agenda unveiled Wednesday by March for Our Lives, a group led by student survivors of the Valentine’s Day school shooting in Parkland, Fla., in which 17 people were killed, comes in the wake of this month’s back-to-back mass shootings that killed 31 people in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio. “A Peace Plan for a Safer America” calls for a ban on assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines, a national licensing and gun registry, a mandatory gun buyback program for assault-style weapons, a rigorous licensing system and other measures to combat not just mass shootings but also suicides and domestic and urban violence.
“It’s nothing like anyone else is proposing,” said Parkland survivor and March for Our Lives board member Tyah-Amoy Roberts. Indeed, the plan would go well beyond the modest gun-control measures such as expanded background checks and “red flag” laws that have been the focus of the current debate. Given the difficulty of enacting even those bare-boned safeguards — thanks to the sniffling obeisance of President Trump and other Republicans to the gun lobby — one might wonder if there is a pie-in-the-sky aspect to the students’ agenda.
“We know this seems ambitious, given Washington’s apathy to decades of bloodshed in our schools, neighborhoods, and even our houses of worship,” March for Our Lives co-founder and Parkland survivor David Hogg wrote on Twitter in a clear-eyed acknowledgment of what the group faces. But the refusal of these student activists to accept the status quo and to instead fight for what makes sense has already produced results, including modest gun reforms in Florida and other states and the mobilization of young voters that helped Democrats in last year’s midterm elections.
The students have now set their sights on the 2020 elections and hope their plan sets the tone for debate in both parties. As Ms. Roberts explained, “We are changing the conversation around gun violence itself because we don’t want the narrative to come from people who haven’t experienced it — to come from people who benefit from the sale of guns. We want the narrative to come from people who understand it from its very root.” Good for them.