Over the past month since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., killed 17 innocent people, we’re learning a lot about Americans – or at least confirming reality.
In our desire to make sense of the insensible and solve the unsolvable, our gut reaction has been to oversimplify and gravitate toward majority opinion based on feeling instead of nuance and truth.
Evil clearly exists in the world. The portrait emerging of the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, is not a happy one. Despite efforts by many people – including his adopted parents – to help him, Cruz progressively turned into the violent killer who walked into the school in February and opened fire.
To determine exactly at what point could have saved Cruz from a life of destruction is way too difficult to say, but what we do know is that he was seen by his family, neighbors, medical personnel, fellow students, teachers and administration as someone who was a danger to himself and others.
This is what makes the oversimplification of the debate on gun control a bit maddening.
The whole purpose of the Second Amendment is because the Founders recognized that evil exists in the world. Accepting the government as the sole authority for our natural right to protect ourselves is, in a word, naïve.
The students who have captivated the nation are showing their youthful exuberance – and their participation is good – but they have grasped onto this innocent, yet incorrect, notion that it is the law that has failed us.
I must admit that as a parent, I too have fallen for this very simplistic method of discipline and oversight: If the “blank” is causing misbehavior, then take “blank” away.
The problem, of course, is that it’s not that simple. Generally, “acting up” is not the failing of some inanimate object. It is squarely on the shoulders of the individual animating
it. In other words: Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.
It’s cliché, but can it be disputed?
Restricting access to guns might make it more difficult for the deranged to inflict horror, but tell that to the Unibomber, Timothy McVeigh and, most recently, Mark Anthony Conditt of Austin, Texas.
We live in an era where Americans are all too quick to form the mob, which is incredibly easy to do with instant communications and mass media.
It is exactly for these times that the Bill of Rights was enacted.
The only difference in this instance is that the collective sympathy for the victims and the desire to see young people “win” when they’re out trying to participate in the civic discussion might just be enough to persuade the persuadable into bad policymaking.
The proof will be in the voting.
The U.S. Census Bureau studied voting patterns from 1964 to 2012 and found that voting among those aged 18 to 24 years old, while always the least among the age cohorts, has precipitously declined from nearly 51 percent to 38 percent. There was an all-time low of just over 30 percent in 1996 and 2000.
And this is not just a U.S. phenomenon. In Britain’s 2015 election, 43 percent of young voters materialized at the polls. That’s it.
As reported from The Hill:
“Sari Kaufman, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas student, urged fellow students and others to vote during a sister march in Parkland, Fla. ….‘With this movement, we will ensure record-breaking turnout not just in the next presidential election, not in the next midterm election, but in all elections,’ Kaufman said, according to Reuters. ‘We’re here today to give you the tools to make a change.’”
Perhaps. But will that be a change for the better or just a way to make ourselves feel like we did something?
Perhaps each of us already has the tools within us, but it means not looking for the paternalism of government but doing what is truly hard: taking personal responsibility, standing up to evil and preserving liberty.
The discussion we must have is not easy or simple. It is multifaceted and includes mental health and illness, bullying, the accessibility to and licensing of weapons, the capacity of weapons, discipline in the public schools, respect for life in society and more.
To truly solve this problem, we must be willing to engage in dialogue and understand nuance. I hope that’s what this new generation is learning. And I hope that’s what the country as a whole remembers.
This column originally appeared in The Princess Anne Independent News.