When 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida were murdered on Feb. 14 by a former MSD student, the United States once again began down a familiar path. There were calls for thoughts and prayers, calls for increased background checks, calls for better school security, mental health, armed teachers— and anger fueled by the grief of losing young lives and heroes to another act of senseless violence.
All of this seems customary. The same response has followed every major mass shooting in recent memory—Newtown, Sutherland, Las Vegas, Orlando, San Bernardino, Charleston, and so many others that it has become impossible to list them all. By calling for stronger gun control, this editorial board will not be adding anything new to this familiar conversation because horrific mass shootings are nothing new to America. Nonetheless, we stand with the majority of Americans who do not accept the status quo, and we stand with the protesters across the country who are not just calling for change, but taking action to create it.
We support a tighter federal system of background checks to ensure that a 19 year-old gunman with a history of mental illness and disciplinary infractions at school, including assault and comments on social media about school shootings, cannot escape the notice of the FBI and local law enforcement. We support stronger restrictions on guns overall, and call on our elected officials to move beyond partisan politics and work towards legislative solutions to the epidemic of gun violence.
Most importantly, this board affirms the student-led movement sweeping across the nation, led by the very victims of the Parkland shooting— high schoolers who have faced this issue head on. We are inspired by the participation of young people and students who are turning rhetoric into action and refusing to accept apathy as an answer. We encourage all students and citizens to take part in these protests and to resist letting the momentum fade away like many gun control movements after horrific mass shootings have faded away before.
On March 14, Georgetown students will have the opportunity to participate in such a movement on campus. Student activists have planned the “Enough! Walkout for Gun Violence Prevention— Georgetown” event in conjunction with a national school walkout organized by Women’s March Youth EMPOWER on the one month anniversary of the Parkland shooting. Organizers intend to show congress that stronger gun control has wide support and to demand action toward meaningful reform. Participants will leave classrooms to gather at Healy Circle for 17 minutes at 10 a.m. that Wednesday. This editorial board believes that this walkout is a powerful way to express the anger and frustration felt by many, and encourages each and every student and staff member at Georgetown to join.
This editorial board also commends the actions taken by the university to facilitate prospective students’ participation in protests nationwide. On Sunday, the Office of Admissions tweeted, “We provide all applicants an opportunity to elaborate on any disciplinary infraction and carefully consider all context they provide. Participation in a peaceful protest will not negatively impact admission to Georgetown.” This editorial board believes that this announcement, as well as similar promises from schools such as MIT, George Washington, and Yale, are a powerful way for educational institutions to take action. Students should feel safe to make their voices heard on this issue without fear of lasting consequences with regard to their possibilities for higher education.
We encourage the university, professors, and administrators to extend a similar guarantee to current students who choose to participate in protests and the walkout here at Georgetown. Professors should not penalize students who join the demonstrations on March 14th and exercise their rights to peaceful protest. In fact, we believe professors should join students in the walkout to strengthen the message of the protest. Professors share the campus with students and are also victimized by school shootings. Widespread participation by all members of the community from a university in the heart of Washington will aid students across the country in sending their message to Congress.
Ten days later, on March 24, students from Parkland will lead the March for Our Lives. Organizers expect the central march in Washington to draw 500,000 participants and to be accompanied by marches across the world. We urge Georgetown students and faculty to take part in the Washington march to ensure that this is the last time we let a mass shooting slip out of the American conscience without tangible legislative solutions to gun violence. It is our duty as Georgetown students, as people for others, to speak up for the voiceless and march for those who are not here to march for themselves anymore.