FOCUS: Are protests an effective way to advocate against acts of gun violence?

Students often perceive the debate over gun violence as the responsibility of adults and political figures. Students, however, can participate in the conversation. One of the ways students can get more involved in gun safety discussion is by protesting, according to junior Chloe Nguyen.

“I believe that when there is corruption or when there is something wrong with society or government, that you should rebel, that you should do something about it,” Nguyen said.

In recent years, school shootings have become a much bigger conversation, resulting in more actions being taken to ensure that students’ voices are heard. In Feb. 2018, the Parkland shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School killed 17 and injured 14, evoking nationwide protests. According to Facing History and Ourselves, students protested to stop the sale of high-capacity magazines and advocated for additional laws that require background checks for all gun purchases and a law to ban the sale of assault weapons.

“The students are the newer generations. We are the future,” Nguyen said. “We can look back on our mistakes and we can improve them. I’m not saying older people can’t, but I’m saying we are the future.”

Along with the Parkland shooting, according to The New York Times, 19 children and two teachers were killed May 24, 2022 in Uvalde County, Texas.

Protests arose after the Uvalde shooting, bringing the spotlight back onto gun violence and gun control. Relatives of the victims protested the police, claiming incompetence. Police video footage revealed that officers were hesitant to confront the gunman, resulting in more deaths, which angered many, including the victims’ families.

Some students believe that protests are an accessible and effective way for students to get involved with issues like gun violence. Nguyen believes that protests are a positive and effective way of beginning change.

“Even if people think it (protests) doesn’t work, at least you’re trying to influence a group of people, and maybe that can start a movement or some sort of change” Nguyen said.

However, some feel that protesting is the least effective way of advocating. Exploring computer science and digital media teacher Brian Van Dyck shares this viewpoint.

“They (protests) actually have caused more damage, including deaths, as gun violence itself is in the hands of criminals,” Van Dyck said. “Criminal behavior does not beget criminal behavior.”

Some believe that in place of protests, prioritizing mental health in classrooms can lend a hand in creating safer schools by reducing feelings of hatred and revenge, which often result in school shootings.

“I think students can make their workplace a lot safer just so we don’t feel the need to protect ourselves,” Nguyen said.

According to the California School Boards Association, minimizing fear, including gun violence and bullying, will assist in creating a safer, more supportive school environment.

As a result of the increased conversation surrounding gun safety, on July 21, President Biden created “The Safer American Plan,” intending to fund the police to promote effective prosecution of crimes, invest in additional crime prevention and a fairer criminal justice system and lastly, keeping dangerous firearms out of dangerous hands.

Increased gun laws prove to be an effective way of decreasing gun violence, according to the California State Portal, which states Californians are 25% less likely to die in a mass shooting due to increased firearm laws and policies.

Although increased gun laws have made an impact on reducing violence in schools and the U.S. as a whole, Van Dyck advocates that there is always the fear that no one can do enough to stop violent attacks.

“History has shown that people that want to do bad things are going to do bad things no matter what,” Van Dyck said.

This is why advocating and prioritizing mental health in schools is an important issue for many students, according to Nguyen.

“Because from what I’ve heard, a lot of school shootings happen because a kid is being bullied and doesn’t have a safe school place,” Nguyen said.“So they (students) feel the need to take revenge. I think students can help out each other instead of bullying each other and make everyone feel like they need to protect themselves.”