Carlyle Fielding Stewart III

Writings on Democracy, Social Justice, and Religion

And the Children and Youths Will Lead Them

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Enough is enough!

The children of Florida have spoken and the rest of the nation is paying attention. Deeply hurt and traumatized seeing their school mates, family members and teachers gunned down in cold blood in the hallways and classrooms of their schools, they are ready to take constructive action to curtail, prevent and eradicate gun violence.

Schools are supposed to be safe and peaceful places for students. Students want normative learning environments but instead have found themselves as victims of a deeper problem in American society and culture. It is the sacralization, normalization and utilization of gun violence to kill innocent people. It is violence fueled by uncontrollable rage, deep-seated hatred, resentment, anger and fear.

Often used as a tool of terror by the socially and relationally alienated and the mentally ill, gun violence stokes paralyzing fear and rage which rips at the heart and soul America. America from its inception has been infused with a culture and history of violence and the recent catastrophic increase of gun related deaths and injuries appear to have reached epidemic proportions.

Young people all across this nation have vowed to end the madness but politics has too often gotten in the way.

In his book America at War With Itself, Andre Giroux reminds us:

“The Law Center to prevent gun violence reports that in 2010, guns took the lives of 31,076 Americans in homicides, suicides and unintentional shootings. This is equivalent of more than 85 deaths each day and more than three deaths each hour. 73, 505 Americans were treated in hospital emergency departments for non-fatal gunshot wounds in 2010. It is heartbreaking to contemplate the almost 30,000 young people killed in a ten-year period….for every solider killed in Afghanistan during 11 years of war, at least 13 children were shot and killed in America.”

Something must be done. While many politicians appear powerless to change laws, gun legislation was passed last week in Florida due to the persistent efforts of youths, children and adults of the Never Again and Marching for Our Lives Movements.

Slate Magazine recently reported that “The Florida legislature passed a raft of new gun control legislation Wednesday in response to the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., marking a significant shift in the political and policy undertones of the gun control debate in a state that has long been used as a gun rights policy petri dish by the National Rifle Association. In a bipartisan vote that had significant opposition from both parties, the Republican-dominated State House voted 67-50 to impose new restrictions on long gun purchases, while also resolving to put more guns in the state school system in the hands of school employees.”

Now suing the State of Florida for passing recent legislation on gun violence, the NRA has consistently maintained that any form of gun reform can potentially lead to the removal of all firearms from all gun owners in America. Many people understand the NRA’s concerns but others believe they are simply efforts to thwart any meaningful gun reform legislation at all in America.

A few years back “A new national Public Policy Polling survey of gun owners finds overwhelming support for background checks and a higher likelihood of supporting political candidates who move them forward. Gun owners also believe the National Rifle Association, or NRA, is out of touch with them on these issues, and many believe the organization has lost its way altogether. While the debate over gun policy starkly divides American politics, this poll shows that support for key gun violence prevention policies has remained strong for years, even among gun owners themselves.”

Few people have recommended in these legislative proposals that all firearms should be taken away from all Americans because such knee-jerk reactions do not solve the problems of gun violence or criminal access to firearms. Part of the NRA’s rationale is based on the belief that it makes no sense to disarm citizens by taking away all guns while criminals still have illegal access to weapons.

But reforms and legislation are exactly what’s needed so that the possibilities of such deadly rampages like the one in Florida and other places in America are severely reduced if not entirely eliminated which some say will never happen because of strong opposition from the NRA and gun lobbyists.

Simply put we need tighter restrictions and licensing on the acquisition, purchase and usage of firearms in America. Strict qualifications for background checks, firearms purchases and management must be mandated. If there are restrictions for operating a motor vehicle which can become a deadly weapon if not used properly and responsibly there should be restrictions on firearms acquisition and usage.

Firearms usage involve the utmost care and responsibility. The issue here is safety, safety and more safety. Guns are not toys but deadly weapons. People use them to protect themselves and their families, to hunt, to use for sporting and to kill people.

There should be no debate about whether we should implement safer legislation and policies but the major concern I have is given all the information provided by gun manufacturers about adhering to strict rules on gun safety after firearms purchases, and considering all the information provided about the importance and necessity of using gun locks, properly latching the safety mechanisms on firearms before and after usage, and after all the admonitions regarding the proper storage of guns in vaults and giving meticulous attention to the disassembly, re-assembly, maintenance and cleaning of firearms, and after advocating strict compliance with local, county, state and federal firearms regulations, and after providing information on how to apply for a license to carry a firearm, which necessitates knowing when, where and how to carry and discharge a gun and the difference between shooting to kill and shooting to stop aggression, which also involves weapons training and qualifying to handle and properly aim a gun at a target, and knowing the difference between shooting at stationary versus moving targets which shoot back at you, which also calls for learning how to lawfully transport firearms from the home to the car to the firing range and other places, and after exhorting firearms purchasers to carefully read and master the red print warnings in gun owner’s manuals, and advising the appropriate munitions matching in using the correct brand and type of ammunition for the appropriate caliber and type of gun and after demanding that gun owners fully immerse, bath, and govern themselves in complete knowledge, information and awareness of the ultimate responsibilities to themselves, children and youths, families and communities in firearms possession, and while issuing all the strict rules on gun care and management and repeating the endless “do’s and don’ts”and “wills and won’ts” regarding personal behavior, character and the proper decorum in firearms ownership, possession and conduct; and after going to great lengths to enforce and reinforce rules while placing new rules on top of more revised rules, and distinguishing between people who collect firearms as a hobby and weapons accumulators where some but not all believe that the more weapons they possess the more they can protect themselves from harm and the more people they can kill or take down in self-defense.

Why would we still allow loose-goose, half baked, nebulous requisites such as reducing the age limits and eliminating the mental health requirements for some people to purchase semi-automatic weapons which were designed and created for one purpose which is to kill people in combat? Why so strict in the possession, maintenance and use of firearms and then so “Wild-Wild West, “or  lax in keeping the same restrictions across the board for everybody which completely opposes all caveats and warnings about responsible firearm possession, ownership, and usage even by gun manufacturers themselves and the NRA, which carefully offers added protection in providing theft and liability insurance for firearms owners?  Why are so many dangerous people still getting guns and killing innocent children, youths and adults? How ironic is this?

And now proposals are on the table that would allow teachers to become policemen in the school? What a terrible idea! This does not solve but compounds the problem. How about exterior parameter-parking lot protection around schools by professionally and highly trained law enforcement officers who will prevent any shooters from entering the schools in the first place or if necessary putting gun detectors in schools? There is no “magic bullet theory-“no pun intended- that will solve all problems related to this issue. They are too complex, multi-layered and multi-tiered to be solved by a single theory or solution. It will take more than legislation because the problem is deeply cultural, social, behavioral, psychological, relational, familial and highly personal and until the day comes when guns are no longer needed in America, revising and strengthening existing laws and passing new laws are a great place to start!

Recent studies reveal that nearly 7,000 children have experienced gun related deaths in schools, streets and other places in America since the massacre at Sandy Hook.

Few things take such a deadly daily toll in America as gun violence but gun reform does not mean that all guns must be eliminated from usage or taken from law-abiding citizens. Guns don’t shoot on their own. People shoot guns.  A real life person pulls the trigger. The issue has to do with the types of weapons made available to the certain types of people; the proper management of responsible firearms sales, background checks, training and usage. Laws should be developed that will reduce the likelihood of the types of massacres that we have seen not only in schools and on city streets, but in other so-called safe places in America like churches, movie theaters, night clubs, malls, concert venues and other areas of American life.

Since many politicians cannot seem to muster the strength to pass legislation without fear of raising the ire of the NRA and losing their financial support, and because so much of American politics has been hijacked and hoodwinked by dark money politics, it has finally become necessary for the children and youths to non-violently lead the way in legislating safer gun laws in America.

Not The First Children and Youths To Take A Stand For Justice Against Violence

This is not the first time in American history that children have been used to effect positive political and social change in America. Some of the Civil Rights reforms and legislation passed in 1960’s were also influenced by children and youths who put their hearts and souls on the line to create a better nation and world. Although many people protested the use of children and youths for such purposes, the ultimate aim was to break the back of Jim Crow segregation and create safer and more humane places for black people to live in America.

The student led protests with sit-ins, the Little Rock Nine,  Freedom Riders, Birmingham Children’s Crusade were inspired strategic initiatives enlisting college, grade school, middle school and high school age youth and children to protest racial injustice and oppressive segregation in Birmingham Alabama and cities in the south. The Little Rock Nine were the first to integrate pubic schools in Little Rock Arkansas were in large measure one of the forerunners of the Student integration movement.

“Protests in Birmingham began with a boycott led by Shuttlesworth meant to pressure business leaders to open employment to people of all races, and end segregation in public facilities, restaurants, schools, and stores. When local business and governmental leaders resisted the boycott, SCLC agreed to assist. Organizer Wyatt Tee Walker joined Birmingham activist Shuttlesworth and began what they called Project C, a series of sit-ins and marches intended to provoke mass arrests.

When the campaign ran low on adult volunteers, James Bevel, SCLC’s Director of Direct Action, thought of the idea of having students become the main demonstrators in the Birmingham campaign. He then trained and directed high school, college, and elementary school students in nonviolence, and asked them to participate in the demonstrations by taking a peaceful walk fifty at a time from the 16th Street Baptist Church to City Hall in order to talk to the mayor about segregation. This resulted in over a thousand arrests, and, as the jails and holding areas filled with arrested students, the Birmingham Police Department, led by Eugene “Bull” Connor, used high-pressure water hoses and police attack dogs on the children and adult bystanders. Not all of the bystanders were peaceful, despite the avowed intentions of SCLC to hold a completely nonviolent walk, but the students held to the nonviolent premise. King and the SCLC drew both criticism and praise for allowing children to participate and put themselves in harm’s way.”

When national news outlets aired the stories about the use and subsequent assaults on youths involved in the protests, many Americans were outraged at what they witnessed on national television which gave new impetus and momentum to the Civil Rights movement. The Civil Rights Act was eventually passed by the United States Congress under the strident leadership of President Lyndon Baines Johnson along with pressure from Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr, Rev Ralph Abernathy and other Civil Rights leaders.

In a society where children are cherished, protected and taught by adults, here we have an important precedent in which brave young men and women were called upon as a last resort to eliminate racial segregation in Birmingham and other places in America which eventually moved the nation forward on this issue.

With the new student movement in Florida and in other parts of America protesting gun violence fueled by the senseless slaughter of their friends, teachers and family members, and the cataclysmic and unspeakable rupture of everything that was once normal in their everyday lives, even the children are now providing meaningful leadership by calling attention to this menacing, heart-rending problem.

Again, the children and youths, like their predecessors in Birmingham and other parts of this nation, are taking responsibility for leading the way. And while the new movement will require carefully sustained efforts over an extended period of time to effect meaningful gun legislation in America, a similarity between the movements of yesterday and today is the amount of passion, determination and energy brought by young people to effect positive social change in America.

The children and youths are of different races, religions and political persuasions but they all agree that its not about the political party they belong to but that they care about the future of children and youths in America. Where adults have failed, young people have taken the initiative to effect positive social change around issues of gun violence. Only this time for the Never Again and Marching for Our Lives Movements it’s different. No police attack dogs. No shots fired for protesting. No fire hoses. No billy clubs or night sticks but the simple use of nonviolence to protest the violent slaughter of their friends and the innocent. Armed with sheer determination, audacity and granite will, coupled with perseverance, compassion, and a firm belief in the justness of their cause along with heartfelt expressions of outrage and an unbridled zeal for justice, the youth and children are motivated by a desire to stop this gun madness and to end this war on America and her children so they may go to school safely and finally live in peace.

And the children and youths will lead them.

When adults cannot make the necessary changes preventing the slaughter of innocent life in America, the children and youths will lead them. God protect them and give them strength in helping to save more lives by calling rapt attention to this critical issue to make America better and greater and not continuing the business as usual mindset which gets nothing done to prevent this problem which is sure to happen again in the near future.

If adults and leaders handle their business and do the right thing because it is the right thing to do, meaningful and positive change through legislation can occur on gun violence.  But we must move beyond all fear and have sensible discussions with both sides of this issue by learning to listen to each other and by refraining from the threats, fear mongering, exaggerations and demonizing of opponents which drive them further away from each other but only make them more determined to press their cause. We need meaningful, workable solutions to these real problems which will make our children and youths, our homes, schools, neighborhoods and workplaces much safer places to live.

Americans have had enough of all of the killing and slaughter and the gratuitous wholesale violence. When the children and youths lead the way on this issue we understand that America may have finally reached an irreversible tipping point which will expedite positive, meaningful and lasting change on this issue before the next massacre occurs.

Tens of thousands of young Americans held protests across America today against gun violence. They are marching for truth and justice and marching for their very lives.

We pray that their movement and efforts will not be in vain. We pray and work for meaningful change that will save our children and save America from the violence which consumes us and will eventually destroy us if we don’t bravely face and positively change this terrible reality.

In paraphrasing a statement made by the great Joe Madison on his radio program which is a fitting final statement here: If a dog dies on a plane and legislation can be passed to protect animals from death while in storage on airplane flights why can’t we pass more meaningful gun legislation which will protect the lives of our children, youths and adults in everyday life?

God bless America. God bless our children, youths and caring adults who are leading us at this critical hour in our nation. God bless them all and God keep them safe.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *