MSD students miss the point



Opinion columnist Caleb Stekl criticizes a recently published editorial by the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for failing to address what he perceives to be the core issues leading to gun violence.

CALEB STEKL, Opinion Columnist

The students leading the charge against gun violence and mass shootings have been working tirelessly to get meaningful gun reforms passed, and their efforts have been inspirational.

With that being said, their “manifesto” fundamentally fails to address the core issues leading to gun violence and fails to recognize the struggle of people outside of their sphere. Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School recently published an editorial in their school paper, The Eagle Eye, and was then published in The Guardian.

Here is where they are wrong.

Their first demand is to “ban semi-automatic weapons that fire high-velocity rounds.” They say access to these weapons “puts us into the kind of danger faced by men and women trapped in war zones.”

This blatantly ignores the fact that our own police forces are armed with military grade weapons and that SWAT teams regularly storm houses in low income neighborhoods. In addition, this reflects their blatant ignorance to victims of gun violence outside of their sphere.

This ban would disproportionately affect poor people of color, most often the target of SWAT raids, from defending themselves against imperialist aggression. Any call to disarm civilians must include the demilitarization of law enforcement.

They want to “change privacy laws to allow mental healthcare providers to communicate with law enforcement.”

Privacy laws already make mental healthcare professionals mandatory reporters of any violent or suicidal statements. If patients knew their honesty would lead to police intervention, it would dissuade people from seeking help and comfort from professionals. We should encourage people to seek help when they are not feeling well, not punish them by reporting them to the police.

If mass shootings were about mental health, then why aren’t they ever done by members of the LGBTQ* or black communities who face far more social scrutiny than the average white male?

The MSD editorial further suggested to “establish a database of gun sales and universal background checks” that would “be paired with infractions of gun laws, past criminal offenses and the status of the gun owner’s mental health and physical capability.”

We already disenfranchise millions of former felons from being able to vote again.

To beat a dead horse, disenfranchisement disproportionately affects poor people of color, and these laws would make it easier for cops to indiscriminately kill unarmed poor people of color.

Limiting a person’s ability to own a weapon to their “physical capability” further disenfranchises persons with physical disabilities.

How many veterans only have one arm, leg or eye? Certainly no one would argue they shouldn’t own weapons. So, why shouldn’t the poor woman who lost her eye due to a lack of affordable healthcare be able to defend herself?

MSD students say we should “increase funding for school security.”

As opinion columnist Brenna Wolfe pointed out, resource officers are not the answer. Metal detectors, clear backpacks and better locks on doors will not prevent mass shootings.

All of the most recent school shootings have involved a shooter accessing the building from outside. A metal detector or an officer with a pistol will do little against a determined shooter with an assault rifle.

MSD students fundamentally miss the point when it comes to gun violence. School shooters are white, evangelical males. Mass shooters, in general, are white males. A large majority of violent terrorist incidents in the United States are committed by white males. Why?

White supremacy requires violence to maintain its power. From manifest destiny to Charlottesville, this has remained true. That doesn’t mean the targets of their violence will be persons of color, but it does mean white supremacists will be violent.

The cause of the MSD students’ own pain was a white supremacist. He was trained by one, and he had swastikas on his bullet clips.

So, what does this mean for whiteness and gun violence?

The violent international imperialism our country has embraced — liberal and conservative alike, emulated through our films and songs — has become a stalwart of our cultural fabric.

Weapons are not for self-defense, but for offense. We cannot dismiss poor people of color in our quest to end gun violence. Instead, we must change both the public’s and law enforcement’s culture of violence.

Black folks have been leading the charge against gun violence for over 100 years. Now that white kids are doing it, will we listen? Unfortunately, yes.