Each year since the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School, the United States has been inflicted with a rash of school shootings — resulting in the loss hundreds of students’ lives. A recent school shooting that captured national attention occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine’s Day. Former student Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people. All but three were students.
In the aftermath of the shooting, a heated debate regarding gun rights ripped across the country. Students organized protests calling for stricter gun control measures, while gun rights advocates organized rallies in support of the Second Amendment.
Students from Marjory Stoneman led the call for gun reform and organized the nationwide March for Our Lives on March 24. As the Parkland activists took over Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., more than 8,000 people in Utah gathered at West High School in Salt Lake City to march to the State Capitol.
Among them were multiple representatives from the College Democrats at the University of Utah, holding signs that read, “People with guns kill people,” “Students demand gun reform” and “Choose me, not guns.”
Photo courtesy of College Democrats at the University of Utah.
In the midst of the protests, some people pointed fingers at the Parkland students, saying they were taking advantage of the tragedy to become famous. They felt that if the students were truly impacted by the shooting, they wouldn’t be rallying in the streets so soon after.
“I don’t think it makes sense that you need to wait to talk about anything,” said Elise Scott, associate director of the College Democrats at the U. “I generally think that it’s kind of intellectually dishonest and it’s not very curious to think that there’s a time limit to talk about important things, especially when people’s safety is on the line. With Parkland, it’s especially egregious because you have the survivors themselves telling you that they need help and asking for an audience and people speak over them. I don’t know how you retain any credibility when you speak over people who actually lived through the event.”
Scott feels that there should be comprehensive gun reform on the federal level — first improving background checks and making them required for all firearms purchases, then considering specific weapons bans.
“I wish that we were not in a state where a shooting was required to change gun laws, because I understand why that makes people nervous — it feels like a knee-jerk reaction,” Scott said. “I do think gun laws should change, though, and they should change in order to prevent more shootings.”
College Republicans at the U said it agrees with the College Democrats on one thing — safety should be a priority for lawmakers. When it comes to the actual debate concerning gun rights, however, the group echoes many of the sentiments heard from those on the right in wider discussions across the country.
“We need to improve school security depending on a school’s needs and the resources they have,” said Frances Floresca with College Republicans at the U. “Some of these include door locks, safe rooms, armed resource officers and on-site law enforcement, or create other innovative solutions.”
While Floresca believes that more measures should be taken to secure schools and ensure students’ mental welfare, she does not want the government to make any moves that would further reduce gun rights.
“I strongly believe in the right to bear arms. After all, it is protected under the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution,” Floresca said. “Most people with guns are law-abiding citizens, with a few exceptions. We need to arm our law-abiding citizens better. We need some regulations on how guns are obtained, but still respecting the right to bear arms. A lot more regulations can lead to more law breaking.”