Tom Eblen

Young people taking the lead on gun violence. Why we should let them — and help.

‘What can we do as students?’ March for Our Lives rally planned for Kentucky Capitol

The Prichard Committee Student Voice Team, an organization of students from middle school to college level, gathered for their monthly general meeting at KET to discuss their plans for the March for Our Lives KY Student Teach-In at the state Capit
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The Prichard Committee Student Voice Team, an organization of students from middle school to college level, gathered for their monthly general meeting at KET to discuss their plans for the March for Our Lives KY Student Teach-In at the state Capit

Teenagers have never been good at taking “no” for an answer. That’s why each new generation finds ways to solve a few problems that confounded their elders.

Let’s hope that is the case with today’s young people and our gun violence epidemic.

But they must act quickly, before they get old enough to think it’s useless, it’s hopeless, it can’t be done. Before grownups shame them into sitting down and shutting up because they’re being “emotional” or “unrealistic.”

The Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., which came three weeks to the day after the deadly shooting at Marshall County High School in Benton, seems to have been a tipping point.

Young people across the country are speaking out, organizing and vowing to make politicians take their lives and safety as seriously as they take gun rights.

To attract public attention and support, young people are organizing March for Our Lives events on March 24 in Washington, D.C., and cities across the nation. The Lexington event is 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Courthouse Plaza. Everyone is welcome.

Some Marshall County students and the Student Voice Team of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence also are planning a student rally and “teach-in” March 20 at the Capitol in Frankfort.

I expect both events will attract a good turnout from Henry Clay High School, where a boy brought a loaded pistol to school last Thursday. Emotions boiled over at a public meeting that night because some students and parents didn’t think officials were communicating enough or taking their concerns seriously.

Also noteworthy: Over the weekend, I saw a photograph on Facebook of more than 100 white-coated University of Louisville medical students posing with a banner that read: “Gun violence is a public health issue.”

I hope this rush of activism will last — and is just the beginning.

Polls show more than two-thirds of Americans support stricter gun laws, and corporate America is taking notice. More than 20 companies have recently cut marketing ties with the National Rifle Association, sparking outrage from the group’s radical leaders and the politicians who do their bidding.

When you think about it, it makes sense that young people should lead this movement. Most adults are too afraid to even ask the questions posed by gun violence, because they know the answers will be difficult and expensive.

Gun-friendly politicians are in full diversion mode, blaming everything for this crisis except the obvious. It’s movies and video games. It’s mental illness. It’s schools that don’t teach fundamentalist Christianity.

These politicians call for arming teachers because they don’t want to pay for hiring more police officers or fortifying schools. Yes, let teachers do it. We not only expect public school teachers to our educate children, but also make up for parents’ shortcomings in raising them. We ask more and more of teachers, while keeping their pay low and demanding cuts to their pensions so we don’t have to raise taxes.

In my experience, today’s teenagers are exceptionally smart — a lot smarter than I was at their age. They understand that many troubled people, especially young people, have been failed by their parents, their schools, their communities and a lack of adequate social services and mental health treatment.

They are certainly smart enough to understand that if we want fewer gun deaths, we need to make it more difficult for troubled people to get their hands on military-grade weapons of mass destruction. We can’t keep being a national awash in AR-15s because gun lovers think they’re fun to shoot.

If America’s young people believe they can force this nation’s leaders to stop the mass carnage, we should not only let them try but give them all the support we have to give. Maybe they can succeed where we have failed so miserably.

Tom Eblen: 859-231-1415, @tomeblen

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