The Daily Northwestern

Letter to the Editor: It is time for us to act for Parkland

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We know them all by name. Columbine, Newtown and Orlando are just a few. Last Wednesday, another place was added to this list: Parkland, Florida, my hometown.

I’ll be the first to admit that past shootings in the United States have often seemed distant. Yes, shootings motivate us to send thoughts and prayers on social media, and maybe even briefly bring the topic of gun control to our conversation. Eventually though, my motivation for keeping the gun control debate at the forefront of my attention would wane.

Being directly connected to a shooting changes all of that.

Before this event, I would bet most people outside of South Florida wouldn’t be able to find Parkland on a map. Parkland is a peaceful city that borders the Everglades and a place where you were more likely to notify the authorities about an alligator sighting than any kind of crime. It was voted one of the safest cities in Florida last year. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has consistently been ranked among the best public high schools in Florida as well. While I did not attend, I live among and am friends with so many who do.

Now this community and this school are synonymous around the world with tragedy.

Nothing could have prepared me for seeing my community all over the news, ravaged by such an evil act. There is no way to unsee the videos of students, many of whom are neighbors and friends, running with their hands above their heads outside of their high school — a place that should always be safe. But what I have felt is nothing compared to the pain students and families of Stoneman Douglas High School have experienced. That pain I cannot express in words.

It was always easy for me to assume that these types of events would never affect my community, but nothing was further from the truth. We must all view this travesty in regards to where we live and ask ourselves, what if this happened to my community?

Through the pain, I have watched Parkland stand up. Look up Emma Gonzalez, Cameron Kasky or David Hogg as proof. The aftermath of this shooting is going to be different, and the passion and action we have seen from so many Douglas students have already demonstrated as such. The vocal pushback on guns from so many in the Parkland community is too loud to ignore. It’s time for Donald Trump and all NRA-backed politicians to listen.

Politics aside though, this is about people. This cannot be a Democrat vs. Republican issue where we only see our differences. Rather, we need to unite around our similarities and what we all want for our communities. We should all want students and teachers to be safe at school anywhere, period.

I have yet to hear a better alternative to gun control from anyone, liberal or conservative. Do we really want to arm all teachers with guns? That’s perhaps more dangerous. There is merit to addressing mental illness, but guns enable those who fall through the cracks to kill in mass amounts. What we really need is swift action to take guns like the AR-15 out of circulation. I’m not saying this because I’m liberal, but because I never want any community to feel the way my home of Parkland is feeling right now.

In honor of Alyssa Alhadeff, Scott Beigel, Martin Duque Anguiano, Nicholas Dworet, Aaron Feis, Jaime Guttenberg, Chris Hixon, Luke Hoyer, Cara Loughran, Gina Montalto, Alaina Petty, Meadow Pollack, Helena Ramsay, Alex Schachter, Carmen Schentrup, Peter Wang, my friend Joaquin Oliver, and all those who have passed because of senseless gun violence, it is now time for us to act.

Everyone must hold their political representatives accountable to pass gun legislation and preemptively stop another tragedy like Parkland is dealing with. We cannot afford to let the conversation on gun control disappear again. I know for a fact Parklanders will not let this happen, and I hope the rest of the nation is ready to follow.

I am inspired by my hometown. No community should ever have to experience this kind of loss, but Douglas students have turned this horrible event into a call to action. Parkland will be added to a troubling list, but history will remember Parkland for the incredibly brave students, teachers and first responders who will begin a nationwide movement to address mass shootings.

They will need all of our help. Think of Parkland, pray for Parkland, but, most importantly, act for Parkland.

Stender Von Oehsen