These past few weeks have called for conscientious reflection and consideration of what humankind’s spectrum of social and political morality purports to be.
Morality, for purposes of argument, constitutes an intellectual distinction between what is “right” and “wrong” or “good” and “evil.” The spectrum, in most cases, is infinitely long. As such, for many issues, the dichotomy between what is right and wrong is complicatedly nuanced and contains grey middle-grounds that are perhaps too difficult to define at times. What happened a few weeks ago, and what has happened countless times, is not complicated nor does it contain any morally-grey areas. Right and wrong should be not difficult to discern; however, some have yet to realize the intellectually black-and-white nature of the Parkland shooting that occurred last month. Seventeen people were brutally murdered and sixteen injured by an individual who had the ability to purchase an assault rifle (an AR-15) at his earliest convenience. That there should be equivocal political magnitude assigned to the right to own an assault rifle and the right to moderate a weapon that is designed for war so that there is less chance of mass murder is disturbingly misguided and highlights that what should be a dichotomous spectrum of morality, in this instance, is actually devoid of meaning in the eyes of a select few.
Many of the platitudes coming from the political-Right—though not from everyone—in the aftermath of the tragedy follow the same trajectory as they have in the past. Rhetoric placates the notion that “people kill people” and that “the shooter was an oddball who was mentally unstable.” In each of these remarks, culpability is shifted away from the tool of killing to the killer, in watered-down fashion albeit, presumably as a method to divert attention away from the danger these tools pose to everyone at large. Under this mindset, the gun is only as powerful as its user, and the user then should retain the right to carry the gun without any difficulty if it can be guaranteed that the user won’t actually use it for any wrongdoing. This mindset, for all intents and purposes however, equates the rights of an inanimate object to the rights of human beings, and so, forgoes a valid understanding of what morality should be in such a tragic case as this. It is my belief that if you compare the rights of a killing machine to the rights of human beings to not be slaughtered by a weapon of war, then you are on the “wrong” side of moral-history, simply because the right to humanity outweighs the right of an inanimate object.
I digress, however. The purpose of this note is not to delve into moral equivalencies and fact-based argumentation for gun-control—not because it is not pertinent to my worldview, but rather because many people have argued for its existence much more capably and eloquently than I ever could. I’d like to shift my attention elsewhere.
And while, there may be many who disagree with the sentiments previously laid out, it is hard to disagree with the effectual persistence of the students who seek to manifest the change they desire. Casting aside both cynics and conspiracy-theorists, the students of Stoneman Douglas High School (a school that rests 15 minutes away from my own high school) have managed to affect the political consciousness of a nation that has been stagnant on gun reform since Columbine through their activism and everlasting grassroots advocacy.
Florida has been at the heart of politically-regressive scenarios in the past, but not this time. This time, Florida has set the nation forward on what appears to be a political freight-train with an inertia that does not appear as if it can be stopped any time soon. What many pundits have pointed out, specifically 538’s Nate Silver, is that this hot-button issue of gun reform has not faded away like it has in the past, presumably thanks to the efforts of the students from Parkland and across the nation. The feeling of despair after such a tragedy has now been coupled with a certain sense of hope—a hope that even though there are those who disregard the morality of preserving humanity, a time has come where that morality is more important than ever.
And while nothing drastic has happened in Washington as of yet save the reform’s lowest-hanging fruit, Florida’s youth will be at the heart of holding greedy politicians accountable for their inactions in the coming years. As a fellow Floridian and Broward County native, I have never been more proud to claim that my roots are in the Sunshine State.