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The students’ crusade


03/08/18



In the wake of the Feb. 14 shooting at a Florida high school, Hippo’s regular Granite Views contributors will each consider the renewed debate about gun control and other issues related to school shootings in a four-part series running through March 22. 

 
Is it counterintuitive to acknowledge that our young people are telling our generation that we ought to do something? After all, is it not the responsibility of adults to educate the young in their social obligations? Yet the student walkouts that have taken place, and will over the weeks ahead, in the wake of school shooting deaths, are as blunt and dramatic gestures of rebuke to elders as can be imagined. They shame us, and it is about time they did.
The Psalmist puts it starkly: “God ordains strength out of the mouths of babes…” It would be disrespectful to designate these student leaders as “children,” but they are our youth and they are speaking with a collective voice of grief and anger. The question now is whether their actions will “ordain the strength” to take action or will this, too, pass into our sad history that has all too often been paved over by platitudes, good intentions, and feeble gestures.
I do not have a simple answer to what steps exactly are the appropriate ones to stop this carnage. But I do know there is something rooted deeply in all of us who are parents that we must protect those we bring into the world. John Cassidy, writing in The New Yorker, titled his column “America is Failing to Protect its Children.” What don’t we get?
True, Second Amendment advocates will argue, we need weapons to protect ourselves and our families. But what weapons are appropriate is a fair question. Who besides our military (and perhaps law enforcement personnel) need assault weapons? Not long ago, my visiting British son-in-law and I were driving past a gun shop and he asked if we could stop in as he had never seen one before. I watched his face as we went to the second floor where the guns and rifles are displayed. “My heavens, it’s an armory. What civilian needs this?”
That, for me, is the question of balance; actually one of two questions of balance. The first is what weapons do we need to protect ourselves without putting into our hands those needed only on the battlefield. The second is when should our constitutional right to bear arms be abridged? We have to get these right.
Cameron Kasky, a survivor of last week’s massacre, put it bluntly: “To those who say we cannot politicize it, we say it’s only when something is politicized that something gets done.”
That time is well long in the coming.
Stephen Reno is the executive director of Leadership New Hampshire and former chancellor of the University System of New Hampshire. His email is stepreno@gmail.com. 





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