BY MEAGAN WARNER
EDITOR’S NOTE: In the debut of a new point-counterpoint feature at InsiderNJ, Meagan Warner of the College Democrats of New Jersey and Kennith Gonzalez of the New Jersey Teenage Republicans square off to consider the issue of gun control in the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida killings. First, we print here in its entirety, Kennith Gonzalez’s treatment of the subject, followed by the submitted entry of Meagan Warner.
People with Malicious Intents will Always get their Hands on a Firearm, by KENNITH GONZALEZ
I may have never shot a gun, but I never will question the importance of one’s right to protect
themselves, their property, and most importantly, his or her family. The notion that we should ban all guns is not only irrational or impossible, but unconstitutional. The times change, but the Constitution does not.
The 2nd amendment is in the Bill of Rights for a reason, and that right shall not be taken away.
Lately, gun sellers have been raising their minimum age to purchase a semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21, and some legislators are pushing to do the same in Congress. In this time of such great pressure, people fail to realize how insignificant this detail is. While a minimum purchasing age of 21 would have prevented the Parkland shooter from legally acquiring his weapon, the perpetrators of 154 out of the 156 mass shootings that occurred in the U.S. between 2009 and 2016, were over 21 years of age. Age is not the issue. Raising the minimum wage for alcohol or cigarettes has not stopped their use by under-age individuals. What message are sending that we will allow 18-year-olds to use weapons of war as soldiers but not defend their family when they return home?
It truly is a sad sight to see that the mentally deranged individuals who are behind these mass shootings are acquiring guns legally. The central focus on curbing gun violence needs to be on gun safety, education and mental health. In too many states, there are no mental health or background searches. These common-sense approaches will drastically help. Nearly 97% of all gun owners support Universal background checks. Congress must take action and pass these measures.
Most importantly, we need to realize the real problem causing the national gun problem: people. The mantra “People kill people” rings true. A gun is an inanimate object until someone on the other side pulls the trigger. Whether there is hate in their heart, or demons in their head, there is an underlying mental health problem causing these people to attack. These people killing across America neither understand nor appreciate the value of life.
The media seems to be selfishly obsessed with school shootings and ignores the problems that our nation’s inner cities face. In 2017, there were 335 homicides right here in New Jersey, a statistic that seems to go ignored. We have some of the strictest gun laws in the nation yet we still experience such a large amount of homicides in such a small state.
Regardless of how many laws are passed, and how many guns are banned, people with malicious intents will always get their hands on a firearm. We have a serious problem on our hands, but I trust that President Trump and the United States Congress will take the necessary actions.
Current Gun Control is Failing our Children, by MEAGAN WARNER
I sit in a unique position. At 20 years old, I am a college student, and a school board member. It’s in my hands to help protect over 900 students while also fearing my own safety every day. After the events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, I knew then, as I’ve known these many years, current gun control legislation is failing our children. Public school education is not a choice. These kids have to go to school every day, and are powerless to vote for representatives to protect their interests, while having to rely upon others to vote the right way.
But as we witnessed with the Florida State Legislature, sitting survivors of a school shooting in the gallery will not stop legislators from letting money talk and the safety of our students be pushed aside. These children deserve more from us. ALL of us.
Time has run out. Our lives are not chips to be gambled with by organizations like the NRA. We need meaningful gun reform. More importantly, we need to give our students voices.
As a school board member, I fight for the rights of our students to organize and extend their rights to free speech. As a college student and organizer, I fight to be heard. On all levels, one thing has become abundantly clear: our current structures for policymakers simply aren’t working. We shove kids into a building and promise them nothing bad will happen; but why shouldn’t these kids live in fear? Federally, political inactivity continues to suspend our students in limbo until someone else with access to military-grade weapons decides to commit another mass shooting.
On February 14th, we lost 17 more children to completely preventable circumstances. That is 17 too many. And now I’m sure you’re thinking, what do we do? Where do we start?
We need to provide opportunities for our students to be proactive in their interests. Nobody knows what is better for a student than them. As a very recent graduate of the high school I now represent, I can speak with more recognition to how our students feel. However, even I know what I have to offer simply isn’t enough for our kids. They need and deserve the opportunity to speak for themselves and to sit among the boards as a peer. That is my first step in creating a solution.
Appoint a student to every school board in the State of New Jersey.
These are kids without the power to vote for who speaks for them – and that is an unsustainable model for any democracy. We need to empower our students, not stifle their ability to participate. I have faith in our students, and so should you.
I am inspired by the grace and tact of our students. If given the opportunity they deserve, I believe we will all be blown away with the meaningful and impactful change they’re capable of implementing if we just give them the chance.