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Photo: Linn Washington Jr.
Photo: Linn Washington Jr.

[OP-ED] Kids March To End Childish Avoidance On Gun Violence

Lawmaker inaction constitutes criminal recklessness.

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Beyond their loud chants and catchy signs, the thousand-plus students who marched down Broad Street last week to protest gun violence and express remembrance for the 17 slaughtered in that Florida mass shooting last month had a strong yet unstated message for adults: Grow Up!

Those Philadelphia school students want action from adults – especially lawmakers in state capitals and in Washington DC. 

Students in Philly and beyond want change, not just long overdue action on gun control but desperately needed action to end debilitating deficits in resources available for their education,

Ivan Torres, a 9th-grader at the Mastery Charter Thomas Campus in South Philadelphia, offered a common sense suggestion as he waited outside the School District of Philadelphia headquarters for the start of the march down Broad Street to City Hall.

Torres, surround by his young colleagues assembled by the group Juntos, said, “Stop putting money out for more police in schools and put more money into books and better conditions in schools.”

Torres and others who participated in that mass march last Wednesday – one of thousands of such protests by students around America that day – felt that adults haven’t been “responsive enough” to violence plaguing schools and a lot of other pressing issues.

The same day Torres protested with students from across Philadelphia, the U.S. Congress finally responded to that Florida school shooting, that triggered subsequent outcries from students to do something, with passage of a measure to dump millions of dollars into supposed school security improvements like more metal detectors, better locks and safety training. 

“Stop putting money out for more police in schools and put more money into books and better conditions in schools.”

However, that congressional measure did not include a single gun control provision – continuing the child-like and yes, cowardly avoidance of addressing the issue of too many guns with too little restrictions.

The handcrafted, heartfelt signs carried by some students in that Philly protest had messages begging for gun control like “The Founding Fathers Didn’t Have Automatic Weapons” and “Stop Allowing Students To Die.”

The same day Ivan Torres missed classroom education to make a civic statement on making schools safer, Republican lawmakers in Harrisburg continued their contemptuous denial to provide adequate funding for public schools statewide – funding that Torres said is needed NOW!

And those Harrisburg lawmakers, who receive taxpayer salaries to protect the lives of all Pennsylvanians, continued to bar Philadelphia and other local governments statewide from approving mild gun control measures for their areas like requiring the reporting of a stolen gun – reportage that is required All-Day-Everyday-Everywhere for stolen cars.

Remember, these are the same conservative lawmakers in Harrisburg (and across America) who proclaim restrictive ID measures are needed to protect the sanctity of voting but pretend that better ID measures are not needed to purchase guns…measures that would protect the sanctity of school safety thus enabling students to live to grow into voting age.

Perhaps the most poignant message from students during that Philly march was one missed in most media coverage. 

Those arm-linked young protestors embraced America’s vibrant diversity: black, white, Latino, immigrant, Christian, Muslim, atheist, queer and don’t-care.

 

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