Letter: Shouts In The Darkness

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The anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado passed on April 20.
We’re reminded of the Parkland shooting that occurred this year. In March, students walked out of Manhasset Secondary School in solidarity with Parkland as part of a National School Walkout campaign. I’m proud that students of my old high school are taking a stance on gun issues. But it seems that gun law reform isn’t actively part of conversations among students anymore. We need to continue talking about gun law reform because gun laws aren’t as strict as they should be. Are students waiting for another event to speak up? Are older students waiting to turn 18 to vote for better gun laws? If so, students aren’t doing enough to stop gun violence.

On walkout day, the vice president of the Class of 2018, Gabriela Stein said, “we are fortunate enough to live in a state that has good gun laws, but other states such as Florida do not.” In New York, you need a permit to purchase and carry, a registration of firearms and licensing of owners for handguns. None of this is required for rifles and shotguns except in New York City. In Florida, you only need a permit to carry handguns, but the same laws apply for rifles and shotguns as they do in New York. New York has more restrictions, but we still let people have guns. There’s still the possibility of you or a loved one getting shot. In fact, an average of 96 Americans are killed with guns daily, and the gun homicide rate in the U.S. is 25 times higher than that of any other developed country according to Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, an organization “dedicated to understanding and reducing gun violence in America.” We shouldn’t settle for New York’s “good gun laws.” We need to push for stricter laws.

But Manhasset students are settling. They aren’t as concerned with gun laws in their state as they should be. While there may be students who are fighting tirelessly for gun law reform,there’s a lack of action by the general student body following the walkout. This can be owed to a culture of instant-gratification.

Modern society is obsessed with technology and social media. We are accustomed to receiving instant validation from likes and adoration on our posts to social media. We expect that same instant-gratification in our lives. We are impatient when our desires aren’t quickly fulfilled.

The Manhasset community and school administration support the students for “taking action.” News on Long Island constantly praise students. Students get likes on their social media posts about protesting. They’re satisfied with being instantly-gratified by admiration. They’ve stopped protesting after the walkout because it’s enough to make them think they’re making a change. I understand this because I’ve experienced that same happiness from instant-validation.

Most of us probably know that feeling. It’s only human. This is why we may never see gun law reform if we stay committed to fulfilling instant-gratification. Manhasset students, and many other young supporters, aren’t supporting the movement for the right causes. They instead use the movement as a vehicle to receive immediate praise. Students are content with the effort they’ve put in, so they’ve stopped actively fighting to improve gun laws.

Despite this, it’s amazing to see young people speak up for what they believe in, especially on matters that occur beyond the “Manhasset Bubble.” Students have found courage in marching with others, hearing the rawness in the voices of leaders, and finding determination in faces of fellow supporters. There is a spirit of action in this country. That spirit just needs to be galvanized.

Students can’t vote until they’re 18, but they can work with what they have. They should write to local representatives to push them towards supporting stricter gun policies, convince adults to vote for further gun law reform, and keep gun violence issues a part of regular discourse. Supporting a movement can be scary. But students need to place that fear aside and expose the wrong in society. Students need to be okay with not being instantly validated for their actions and not receiving instant-gratification. Real improvement can only happen over time. The gun law reform movement following the Parkland shooting is recent, so it has time to show us if it can inspire real change. It is the supporters’ turn to show the world what they’ve got and make sure their shouts don’t end up in the darkness.

—Jessalyn Chuang

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