Students’ fight against gun violence

The Broward County shootings have been felt more than a thousand miles from Queens, where one of the youngest victims was born 14 years ago. Few traces remain of Alyssa Alhadeff’s earliest days since her family moved to New Jersey when she was an infant, but the borough and the rest of the city have embraced her as a full-fledged member of our mourning community.

The slaughter of 14 young people just starting their lives and three teachers, apparently by a mentally disturbed student, has caught the country off balance yet again, but this time the surviving students at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fla., have vowed to fight for gun reform. A children’s army is forming from a generation that has been targeted in several recent school massacres and has decided to stand up for its right to study violence free.

Protests are planned for the nation’s streets by bands of young people supported by Women’s March organizers and other activists amid doubts as to whether this time will bring any different results. But the angry young Parkland students have made strong arguments for changing gun laws at their outdoor rallies, and even President Trump appears to have listened. He has indicated he is open to changes in the background check laws and banning devices that create automatic weapons.

The students have zeroed in on the National Rifle Association, which gave $30 million to Trump’s presidential campaign, calling out candidates who have taken political contributions from the nation’s most powerful lobbying group.

But for all their commitment and passion, the students have run up against the harsh reality of American politics: the Florida State Senate defeated a ban on assault weapons and large capacity magazines less than a week after the diabolical shootings.

Gun control is a peculiarly American issue which divides the country along cultural and political lines and leaves groups of stereotypes in its wake. If we are ever to resolve some of the debate, we must learn to talk to one another.

New York state has some of the toughest gun laws in the country and we, too, are a divided territory. Upstate, with its vast hunting resources and residents trained to use weapons responsibly, tends to chafe at efforts to limit gun use. The city, which still has its fair share of shootings despite a dramatic drop, accepts that its gun appetite must be curbed to limit crime.

But we must do something as a country. Our children are dying in the classroom, our teachers are being asked to save their students’ lives and the freedom to learn is being lost.

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