Why the Parkland Students Should Go on Strike

Elizabeth Bruenig writes:

Opponents of gun control know that the stories of ordinary people whose lives have been destroyed have a particular strength in democratic contexts, which is why so many have been quick to slander the students who have spoken up. That smear campaign, coupled with the remarkably ill-conceived proposal from President Trump that we ask teachers and tutors to double as marksmen and assassins in order to prevent school shootings, suggests that a new energy has emerged in the wake of the Parkland shooting. The gun lobby is out of ideas for holding off this reckoning and knows that these students, with their heartbroken honesty and furious authenticity, could spark a real shift.

Which is all the more reason for these students to forge ahead — and to turn from conversation to demonstration if circumstances don’t change quickly….

What should the kids strike for? For any number of things: to demand that politicians stop accepting money from the National Rifle Association and the rest of the gun lobby, quit hiding behind suicidal interpretations of the Second Amendment and put legislation for human flourishing over spurious constitutional arguments (imagined or otherwise) and plain greed. It’s neither fair nor reasonable to expect these kids — or any victims or survivors of mass killings — to draft specific policy. Their central demand should be that legislators undertake that process seriously and in good faith, which they ought to have been doing all along. Legislators need to do what needs to be done: bans, buybacks, some combinations thereof. What they need to be told is to do it.

The task before the Parkland students — and other students who choose to join them — is bigger than any one piece of legislation. It’s about reversing a climate of tolerance, not toward specific mass shootings but toward the conditions that permit them. Achieving that will take time and effort and community support. As of now, nationwide student walkouts are already planned, and some districts are claiming they’ll take disciplinary action against participants. A strike could easily be longer-term and affect students dramatically — though members of their communities can ease the impact.