Perhaps the Oxford Dictionary folk did get it right by making “Youthquake” the word of last year. “Youthquake” is a noun defined as “a significant cultural, political or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people.” Last year, it was just simmering, this year, it looks set to erupt as we see the full force of a revolution across continents of young people standing up for issues that concern and outrage them.
One of the teen leaders of the newly formed #NeverAgain movement, Emma Gonzalez’s fire and furious speech was electrifying, just after the mass shooting of 17 fellow students at her school last week and you get the impression that they are not going to take no for an answer. Nor should they. Their outrage and anger is palpable and they are coming together in their hoards to demand action. This will hopefully be the attack that brings a consensus to the issue of gun control in the USA. Nothing much happened after Vegas, or indeed Sutherland Springs (a combined total of 85 people were murdered). With Trump in office, it was only a matter of time before our young people stepped up and out. They have a major battle on their hands with Trump so enmeshed with the NRA in presenting mass gun ownership as a god given right, long sanctified and protected by the second amendment. The NRA was one of his earliest supporters and spent more money (something like $55million) during the 2016 election cycle than they spent in 2012 or 2008. Not because they support Trump per se but because they were petrified of what a Hillary Clinton presidency would mean for gun safety laws. It’s important to note that because the US has the Second Amendment, guns will never entirely disappear (nor is anyone arguing that they should,) but claiming there’s nothing they can do would be laughable if it weren’t so dangerous.
Since 9/11 according to Jon Sopel in his excellent book “If Only They Didn’t Speak English” less than 100 people have been killed by terrorism in the USA, whereas ten’s of 1000’s of people have been killed by gun violence. THIRTY THOUSAND PEOPLE on average in America are killed each year by guns, including suicides. On Christmas Day in 2015, more people died from gun homicide in the USA than died in the UK throughout the whole of 2013. You would expect more, of course given the comparative size of the USA compared to the UK, but this is a thousand times more, not five times more as you would imagine with the size difference.
The National Rifle Association spends $250m year protecting existing gun laws and Trump’s appalling suggestion that they fight violence with violence by arming the teachers supports what the NRA said last week; “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” The numbers of gun deaths the USA has, compared to any other developed nation is horrific and therefore public support for gun control is rising. The young activists will ride that wave and hopefully make a difference to help save lives.
There are common sense gun safety policies that could be passed, including closing the gun show loophole. No one should be able to buy a gun, including an AR-15, from a private seller without a background check. Gun rights advocates will say the cost of these privately sold guns are often too much for people, but that’s hardly preventative. Another loophole that needs to be closed is the Charleston loophole; currently someone can receive their gun three business days after they’ve filled out the background check paperwork, even if the background check has not been completed. California, Maryland and New Jersey have a “one gun a month” law, which prevents stock piling guns or bulk buying straw-purchased guns (which is typically what happens in Indiana and then those guns are brought into Chicago and illegally sold.) Some states also have a “wait period” between when you fill out the paper work for a gun and when you can take it home, which should have an impact on reducing the number of suicides via firearm (which is the leading cause of gun deaths.) The US needs to have a semi-automatic weapons and high capacity magazine ban. You can argue the right to self-defense, but there is no reason these guns need to be on the street.
Trump’s rhetoric continues to focus on mental health, which is of course relevant and complicated, but it should NOT be easier to buy a gun than to buy cigarettes and surely this is now the time to step up the protests? It should also not be about kowtowing to the beliefs of your largest benefactor – even if you’ve struck a deal. Lives are at stake.
Change won’t happen unless there is outrage and there is most certainly enough outrage to start the snowball rolling.
You go guys…if you want our help, we’re happy to fly in!