Over the last few days, there’s been some tension on social media between people who are promoting the recent student walk out protests (triggered by the Parkland shooting) and people who are promoting the “Walk Up” campaign (also in reaction to the Parkland shooting). It’s interesting to me that, like so many other things in the country now, these two campaigns seem to be dividing along party lines; liberals seem to be endorsing Walk Out while conservatives seem to be endorsing Walk Up.
Guys, this is silly. We can do both. And to anyone trying to draw a line between the two, please stop. Whether you know it or not, you’re playing to someone’s agenda and you’re not helping.
Here’s a quick recap:
The Walk Out movement is an ongoing protest in which students walk out of class to protest the lack of action on rampage violence in schools. The organizers of the movement as a whole say they want an assault weapons ban, tightened & universal background checks, and gun ownership restraining orders for people with a documented history of violence. Individual protesters’ goals probably differ somewhat, as per normal. The first protest took place on March 14, and more are planned, involving students walking out of class for 17 minutes (reflecting the 17 students killed in the Parkland shooting).
The Walk Up campaign appears to have been started, if not in opposition, than at least in competition with the Walk Out movement. It broadly encourages kids to be nicer to their more ostracized classmates, on the theory that gunmen typically act out of loneliness and a lack of social outlets. This is probably true for at least some of the incidents we’ve seen over the past several years.
It’s easy to see the tension point here — one movement is promoting a centralized, legislated, regulation-based solution for the problem. The other side is encouraging a personal action, individual responsibility, culture-based solution the problem. This pretty much encapsulates the entire gun debate in this country in one neat little package, and it pre-draws the battle lines for who will likely support these campaigns (especially since “gun control” is a trigger phrase, if you’ll pardon the pun, for such a large segment of society).
For those of us who do not believe that the situation will get better with thoughts and prayer, and furthermore aren’t buying the gun lobby scare tactics, both sides of this argument have merit. Should we implement some new national gun control policies? Probably, yeah. It’s ridiculously easy for Americans to gain access to weaponry sufficient to outfit a platoon*, and this probably isn’t good for society.
Should we implement some kind of campaign to help teach our teenagers to be empathetic humans, rather than the sociopathic little bastards of their baser natures? Probably, yeah. It seems like high schools are the targets of choice for these shooters, which doesn’t hugely surprise anyone who’s been to high school, I would think. There’s a lot of pent-up frustration, hormones, poor emotional control, and not-quite-developed brains in those places.
So my ask is as follows: Students, walk up and walk out. Parents, please encourage your teens to do each of these as they come up.
Walk Up to your classmates. Don’t exclude. Don’t ostracize. Don’t bully. Fight your angsty hormones and lizard brains; you’re better than you’ve been portrayed in any given 80s movie. Try to enjoy your youth without torturing your peers. Realize that as an adult, no one will give a shit about your high school clique. Be nice. Etc.
Walk Out in protest. Your elected officials and communities are failing you. They are explicitly denying you an empirically valid solution, gun control, because your fellow citizens are afraid of losing the ability to kill large numbers of people in the event of tyranny, home invasion, mass revolt of forest creatures, or zombie apocalypse. They are explicitly not funding their own preferred solutions, mental healthcare and enforcement of existing laws. Your fellow citizens have not absorbed the correct lessons of risk assessment. It’s up to you to make your voices heard that something must be done. If it makes you feel better, you’re part of a long tradition. Don’t let your adults forget it, either.
What we’ve got here, folks, is a genuine dyed-in-the-wool social problem. Let’s not make it worse than it already is by factionalizing the young people who are trying to do something to fix it. Even if you don’t like their proposed solutions, please step up and have an inclusive conversation. Because whatever we’re doing now… it isn’t working.
*Before anyone starts to say anything about the the AR-15 being no worse than other civilian-legal semi-autos, let me stop you right there. The cartridges chambered by the AR-15 and similar “military-style” rifles were explicitly designed to bring down a man-sized target by launching a very high-velocity bullet that causes hydrostatic shock as much as several inches out from the point of impact, and then turns into a miniature buzzsaw as it passes through tissue and deforms. They generate absolutely horrific wounds. These things were designed for war, for soldiers who needed to carry the lightest possible cartridge that did the maximum possible damage for its size. The “.223” civilian caliber used by the AR-15 is just the metric-to-inches labeling conversion of the 5.56mm NATO round. Are all bullets deadly? Of course. Is the round fired by the AR-15 more deadly than many other civilian calibers? Absolutely.