The echoes of gunshots fired inside Florida’s Parkland High School are still reverberating throughout Southern Illinois and the nation at large.
The United States, regrettably, has seen more than its share of school shootings. Until now, it appeared as if our citizens and our politicians were willing to accept the carnage as the price of living in a free society.
But, the Parkland shooting appears to have touched a nerve among the American public.
Millions of Americans, including a couple hundred in Carbondale, participated in the “March For Our Lives” two weeks ago, nearly six weeks after the deadly shooting.
The energy fueling these marches is coming from young Americans, students, who are the victims and potential victims of these horrific events. Their voices and their passion are keeping this issue in the public spotlight.
Unfortunately, some are casting aspersions at the young people, claiming they are political pawns, or they are too young to understand the issues. That is hardly a fair assessment. It’s difficult to imagine anything more motivating than being a literal target for emotionally troubled shooters.
The Carbondale march was organized by Carbondale High School seniors Maria Maring and Alexis Jones.
“Only in America is the phrase 'yet another mass shooting' part of our vocabulary,” Jones told other marchers. “Our nation’s students and educators should go to school to learn and teach, not run and hide from gunfire. We don’t have to live with this. Enough is enough.”
We couldn’t agree more.
As this newspaper has stated before, we support the agenda being promoted by the students and at marchforourlives.org:
• Universal, comprehensive background checks.
• Bringing the ATF into the 21st century with a digitized, searchable database.
• Funds for the Center for Disease Control to research the gun violence epidemic in America.
• High-capacity magazine ban.
• A ban on military-grade weapons.
In the meantime, any school that does not have an active-shooter protocol in place is derelict in its duty. But, just imagine that: teaching 5-year-old kindergarten students the basics of reading, where to find the restroom and how to react if someone tries to shoot them.
It’s the heart-rending reality of life in today’s United States.
Conversely, it is heartening to see students like Jones and Maring take the lead on this issue. Their leadership is a positive reflection on lessons being taught in our schools. We want our children to be active, decisive and believe they are an integral part of the community.
Although this type of student activism hasn’t been readily apparent for decades, historically we know that the voices of young people can, and will, eventually be heard. Americans in the Baby Boomer generation remember well that protests of young people helped bring an end to the Vietnam War.
Prior to Saturday’s marches, many local schools were already taking steps to make sure their students are safe. It’s unclear whether a small march in Carbondale will eventually alter our nation’s laws, but the gathering is a blunt reminder to local school officials that students want, need and are demanding additional protection.
Since the Parkland shooting, we have reported on steps being taken in area schools, large and small.
Vienna schools are working with city and Johnson County officials to provide police officers inside the schools. Other area schools have adopted the “Know Me, Know My Name” program designed to locate and provide assistance to troubled students.
While the “Know Me, Know My Name” program is free, other steps are costly. It takes money to hire resource officers. Metal detectors and security cameras can be helpful, but are also costly. However, we have reached a point in our history that the cost of safety can no longer be ignored.
Schools must be prepared. It does no one any good if the cost of saving a few dollars is the loss of our children’s lives.
Our children are making that clear to us with their activism. We need to listen to them.