Bankole: Children now lead gun debate

Bankole Thompson
The Detroit News

School children are finally speaking out with courage as politicians have failed to take common-sense action on assault rifles, action that might have prevented the massacre that claimed 17 lives recently at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

And when grown-ups abdicate their responsibilities or drop the ball on finding a permanent solution to address the easy access to war weapons — like the AR-15 used at the Florida school — children are forced to become the adults.

We got a taste of how America’s children really feel about this issue during their visit to Washington last week days after witnessing a madman take away the precious lives of their friends and teachers at their school. These innocent students came to the nation’s capital to make a frank case about their plight.

Declaring “never again” and “we will not be silenced,” the students and others from around the nation who joined them in a show of solidarity demonstrated in front of the White House and some later met with President Trump.

Their demand is simple: ban automatic weapons that have the propensity to kills dozens of people within minutes. These weapons should not be near schools.

Their demand is not new. What is new is their voice.

We’ve never heard them so loud and clear. That is why their bold decision to petition their government for a change on an issue that has become so divisive in Congress is taking a lot of politicians in Washington by surprise.

The students are not Democrats or Republicans. They are not speakers at the National Rifle Association conventions. They are children who want their schools to be free of assault weapons, because schools are supposed to be safe and conducive environments for learning. They should not be war zones. They should not be killing fields.

This debate has never been about questioning the Second Amendment. It is about whether schools are now going to be war zones instead of centers of academic excellence.

Members of Congress have a choice to make, and these students are forcing them to decide on which side they will stand on this issue.

Absent of making the students’ demands a reality, we risk making our schools war zones and that will force some parents to think twice about sending their kids to school. As the students vowed, what happened in Florida should not repeat itself.

We should applaud these students for their courage, because what they are doing is not only a memory to their friends who died, but is also a powerful tribute to the memory of every other student in the past who has died because a gunman had access to assault rifles.

“We would like to know, why do we have to be the ones to do this?” is how Ryan Deitsch, one of the Parkland survivors, put it to Sen. Marco Rubio during a Feb. 21 CNN town hall.

Another student, Emma Gonzalez, told a rally this week in Fort Lauderdale: “To every politician who is taking donations from the NRA, shame on you. Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have ever been done to prevent this, we call B.S.”

If the adults in Washington are willing to sit and do nothing, students will lead the charge toward changes to our gun laws. They won’t allow their schools to be war zones anymore.

The response of these students reads like the biblical prophesy, “And a little child shall lead them,” because politicians have decided their alliances are more important than guaranteeing the safety of all children.

Catch “Redline with Bankole Thompson” weekdays at noon on Superstation 910AM.