With the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida, gun violence is a hot topic in the States and around the world. It has sparked debate, internet fights, and most importantly, protest. The #NeverAgain movement has caught fire and brought the issue right to the White House. Students from all over have protested American gun laws in a plea for their lives: many walked out of class on March 14th for seventeen minutes, symbolizing the 17 victims of the Parkland shooting. They had signs and chants, and they didn’t back down at the threats of suspension or backlash.
And they did see backlash: many students have been punished with suspension or detention for participating in the protest—not to mention some of the hate they’ve received online. One response to the demonstrations has been the counter movement, coined Walk Up Not Out. The idea is that students need to be kinder to each other and “walk up” to someone when they are alone. It takes the spotlight away from gun reform and comes up with an anti-bully message instead.
We need to kill this idea.
In my sophomore year of high school, there was a shooting in my town, Marysville, Washington. Not at my high school, but the other one down the road. I didn’t grow up in a particularly large town, and although the schools have a rivalry, we all knew each other. So when the news spread across our suburban community, it knocked our feet out from under us. A whole town was traumatized in one day, and it never exactly went back to okay again. We all sat at home watching the news as, one by one, young children were declared dead. I remember lying on my couch all weekend, unable to turn off the television. I knew some of the kids from middle school.
I won’t go on about how crushed everyone was; how absolutely scared and heartbroken we all were. But I will say this: no student could have prevented it by being nice. Someone who is in the mindset to kill their peers is more in need of professional therapy than a bonding session with their class. And to put it on the students to prevent this—as if it’s their fault—is a sick idea. Because guess what? High school has always been rough, but it doesn’t make you into a mass murderer. This is just a move to try and distract from the real issue.
The walk up movement also feeds the idea of school shootings being the result of kids who are bullied with hard lives who couldn’t take it anymore. This is a myth; a romanticized version of the dark truth. The shooters in the infamous Columbine shooting were not vengeful outcasts, but psychopaths. We have to stop painting these shooters as misfits who could have been stopped with kindness, because that is just a lie. Jaylen Fryberg, the shooter in the Marysville-Pilchuck shooting, was crowned homecoming king a week before he opened fire in the lunchroom.
I know it must be nice for NRA members and politicians to be able to blame their problems on the high school environment, which somehow defies psychology and creates people capable of mass murder. But it’s a trick to try to shift responsibility from themselves. The government has failed our children—they’ve allowed this to happen by not properly addressing it. It’s just a fact. Don’t let them weasel their way out of it or tell you they will defend us with more guns. That would only be like setting fire to a burning house.
Don’t tell me to walk up; don’t tell anyone to. Acknowledge that this is a gun problem, that it is far too easy to get a gun in America. And acknowledge our lack of comprehensive mental health support. These are the main issues, and it isn’t pretty. And many people in power are failing us because they are in bed with the NRA. They are sacrificing the younger generation for a winning campaign, and we can no langer stand for it.