In the wake of the Parkland, Florida school shooting that left 17 dead, the student survivors of the massacre are looking to use their experience to voice their concerns and thoughts on gun control. President Trump invited the victims and their parents to meet with him and continue the sparked and previously media based discussion on gun control. On the notes he took into the meetings, Trump wrote in bold letters: “I hear you.”
Emma Gonzalez, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and a former classmate of the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, has become a focal point of this movement. Although she was not among the students that met with Trump, she has been vocal through media and at rallies. She recently wrote a powerful article for Time Magazine in which she calls out policy makers, saying “We are children who are being expected to act like adults, while the adults are proving themselves to behave like children.” Gonzalez along with Jaclyn Corin and Cameron Kasky, student survivors who have also spoke at rallies and met with Florida State Legislature, appeared on The Ellen Show to further their mediabased movement.
Hope College students have not been removed from this dialogue. Among the moving students that make up Hope lies a wide cross section of experiences that shape the discourse of this institution. Kyle Gaines (’20) is an avid hunter and past competitive shooter that has seen the recreational and security benefits of guns. He has claimed to be against gun control but still sees benefit to an increase in certain security measures.
In a recent interview, Gaines explained that the only real solution to gun violence “is to make sure guns don’t end up in the hands of possible threats, which can be eliminated through stricter background checks and gun ownership restrictions.” He went on to explain that he believes in hiring unemployed and background-checked veterans to protect schools, as well as creating an increased waiting time and board approval process for citizens that have “reports on their records that point to violent tendencies.” Gaines declined to expand on the Parkland school shooting because he did not believe his understanding of the event was deep enough to form an opinion.
In another recent interview, Max Stremler (’20) emphasized that gun control needs to be rapidly and massively upgraded. Stremler was raised in a family that highlighted the dangers of guns but has also allowed U.S. opinion on gun control to amplify with the increase in school shootings. On recreational gun usage, he noted that guns were created for military purposes but, “If someone wants to go out to the shooting range and fire a couple rounds, go for it, but you should at least be educated about what it is you’re handling, and I see no need to ever have high capacity magazines just for fun.” He pointed to countries with low gun violence as inspiration for the U.S.
Although Stremler believes mental health is a priority, he thinks that gun control should be addressed first. As for those who argue that the problem lies not in guns but the people behind the guns, he compared the argument to blaming a car for drunk driving. In disgust of U.S. current legislature on gun control, Stremler claims he is no longer proud to be an American and in order for America to be deserving of the title “Best Country in the World,” some major structural changes need to be implemented.
In the mess of deaths and violence, the policy makers, media outlets and educational institutions of the U.S. are being called upon to listen and encourage the teen and young adult discussion prompted by the Parkland tragedy. As Hope continues to seek its place within this conversation, the continuation of open dialogue and heightened awareness will be necessary for solution-based productivity to prosper and grow.