Good for them, and we hope it’ll pay off for us.
Thousands of students and teachers walked out of their classrooms or took part in organized gatherings outdoors during the school day on March 14 as part of the the #Enough! National School Walkout to raise awareness about issues of school safety and the impact of gun violence. The nationwide march was organized by Women’s March Youth Empower.
In St. Louis, students at a few Catholic schools joined in the walkout, guided by their faith and their desire for prayer and actions, some acts as simple as paying attention to someone who may be neglected by classmates.
The drive was led by high school students who survived the school shooting Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Seventeen people, including 14 students, died in the assault that a former student armed with a semiautomatic rifle carried out. He was said to have previously shown signs of mental illness.
This year, as of the end of last month, 34 mass shootings, resulting in 60 deaths and 144 injuries, have been recorded by the online site Gun Violence Archive. The site defines a mass shooting as any incident in which four or more people were killed or injured.
In response to the Parkland shooting, students nationwide also walked out of classrooms Feb. 21 to call on lawmakers to adopt stricter gun laws, boost school security and fund what they see as a woefully inadequate mental health care system.
From the early 1960s to today, student activism has drawn attention to issues ranging from civil rights to environmentalism, and of course massive anti-war protests. Quite often these grassroots efforts lead to legislative or policy actions that cross political lines. For example, the Greensboro Lunch Counter Sit-Ins in early 1960 were led by four students from the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College. In South Africa also, highly successful apartheid-era protests were led by students.
One of the calls being made by the March 14 walkout leaders is for students to register to vote. We add that we need to be responsible voters, following the positions and calls for action issued by the U.S. Catholic bishops and the Missouri Catholic Conference.
In regard to gun violence, Bishops Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Fla., and George V. Murry, representing two bishops’ committees, reiterated the bishops’ advocacy for “common-sense gun measures as part of a comprehensive approach to the reduction of violence in society and the protection of life.”
“Specifically, this moment calls for an honest and practical dialogue around a series of concrete proposals — not partisanship and overheated rhetoric,” the two bishops wrote.
Changing the minimum age for gun ownership, requiring universal background checks, as the bishops have long advocated, and banning “bump stocks” are promising concepts, they added.
As the bishops state, let’s explore ways to curb violent images and experiences with which we inundate our youth, and ensure that law enforcement have the necessary tools and incentives to identify troubled individuals and get them help.
The young people calling for reforms need to be heard — they’re often the ones affected by such violence. Listen. And act.