Mann: Not This Time

Parkland is my home. This time is different.

by Matthew Mann | 3/29/18 2:00am

I am an alumnus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and a resident of Parkland, Florida. This past Valentine’s Day, 14 of my former schoolmates and 3 staff members were senselessly murdered at the hands of a lone gunman. As a result, my hometown and alma mater have been tragically affected in ways that are impossible to describe. I cannot understand what it must have been like for those students to hear gunfire, hide under their desks and witness the deaths of several of their peers. Although I will admit that Marjory Stoneman Douglas is not perfect, I always felt safe there. I made friends, enjoyed my classes, played ice hockey and had a relatively comfortable and normal high school career. The current students at Douglas do not share this experience; their high school career has been brutally tarnished by a terrible act of violence. Our school motto is “Be Positive, Be Passionate, Be Proud To Be An Eagle.” It is in this spirit that I write.

Unfortunately, gun violence has become all too common in America. The Washington Post reports that since 1999, at least 26,000 Americans under the age of 18 have been killed by gunfire. Yet little to no action has been taken to better the situation. Usually, mass shootings — like the one in Parkland — have a similar aftermath. There is a period of mourning in which of individual thoughts and prayers are directed to the victims and those around them from all over the country, Memorials are put up, t-shirts are made, and an all too brief call to action quickly dissipates into obscurity. Not this time. This time is different: a movement has started. Led by students from my alma mater, the Never Again movement declares that enough is enough.

This past Sunday, I joined over 200,000 Americans in the “March For Our Lives” to demand change. While marching, I witnessed widespread support. I passed a church giving out water to marchers, listened to speeches by people of diverse backgrounds, and saw signs such as “Reform Jews Demand Action,” “Gays Against Guns,” and “Hunters Against the NRA.”

Support for gun reform should be universal because gun violence affects all Americans regardless of what communities they identify with. Although some communities face disproportionate levels of gun violence, its reach extends to all areas. In 2017, Parkland was rated the safest city in Florida, yet this did not prevent the shooting. While marching, I saw numerous signs asking, “Is My School Next?” Students today are rightfully scared.

However, there is a more important take-away here. Parkland is a highly affluent and highly educated community. While the Never Again movement has gained national attention, this is not the first movement against gun violence. Members of minority communities across the United States have been speaking up about gun violence affecting their communities for a long time. Nobody has listened. Not anymore. No community is truly immune from the disastrous effect of guns.

There are those that will state that this is not a gun issue — that the problem relates to mental health or a variety of other factors that allow them to ignore the gun. The issue at hand is multifaceted and requires an equally complex solution that extends beyond guns. However, part of the solution needs to directly address guns. After all, all types of gun violence involve guns.

Along these lines, I would like to make something clear. The Never Again movement is not anti-gun. I, like multiple leaders of the movement, have grown up in a gun-owning household. However, supporters of the movement are of the mind that some guns are made for defense, and some — like assault rifles — are not. The latter should not be accessible to the American public. Furthermore, the aim is not to take away any American’s right to defend himself or herself. This movement instead aims to implement common sense gun reform that ensures the safety of all Americans.

Universal background checks, for example, are part of common sense gun reform. Polls have shown that 90 percent of Americans support universal background checks on every gun sale, yet politicians have not implemented them. This is unacceptable and undemocratic. For far too long, the topic of gun control has escaped the halls of Congress, as special interest groups have stalled the conversation on gun reform. Not anymore.

I ask the Dartmouth community to join this movement. Students, staff, and faculty alike have a voice that will help to foster common sense gun reform. The NRA, as well as members of Congress, have placed themselves against Never Again. Their power will be combatted with votes. This movement has the ability to vote out the elected officials that have resisted reform. Those joining in this fight should sign up for an absentee ballot with their state elections commission or register to vote in Hanover. A unified movement can ensure that mass shootings do not become our continued reality — citizens can hold politicians accountable for their inaction, and should not stop until the safety of all American students is ensured. Be the change we wish to see in the world. Be Positive, Be Passionate, and Be Proud To Be An Eagle. Stay Strong MSD. #NeverAgain

Mann is a member of the Class of 2021. 

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