Everything Wrong with the Parkland Students’ Manifesto

On Saturday, March 24, survivors of the Parkland School Shooting led hundreds of thousands of people in a “March for Our Lives” to protest gun violence. The day prior, they published their “manifesto,” a listing of policy recommendations intended to prevent future gun violence. Gun violence is scary, and living through a school shooting is traumatic in a way few of us can comprehend. That said, a manifesto of policy proposals motivated by fear, with little thought given to unintended consequences, will only serve to shift around the problem of violence, not eliminate it. Here are the problems with some of the Parkland students’ policy proposals:

Ban semi-automatic weapons that fire high velocity rounds.

“Civilians shouldn’t have access to the same weapons that soldiers do. That’s a gross misuse of the second amendment.”

First off, why should soldiers have privileged access to these weapons? Does the “right to live” not apply to the countless civilians murdered by U.S. soldiers in the Middle East?

Besides the violence committed by soldiers, this statement represents a fundamental ignorance about the purpose of the second amendment, which was to safeguard against government abuse, a recent and relevant concern of former revolutionaries. If you want to live in a society where citizens are even more massively outgunned by the military and are powerless to fight government abuse, work on repealing the second amendment. However, you should be wary of doing so in a country where the POTUS is a fascist sympathizer who praises dictators and wants to do away with term limits.

Most gun violence in the United States, other than suicide, is gang and drug-related and is committed using handguns. The most effective way to immediately reduce gun violence would be to end the drug war. Banning assault weapons is ultimately a useless reform designed to address a tiny minority of gun violence (mass shootings), which contrary to popular belief, is not a growing epidemic.

Establish a database of gun sales and universal background checks.

“Just as the department of motor vehicles has a database of license plates and car owners, the Department of Defense should have a database of gun serial numbers and gun owners. This data should be paired with … the status of the gun owner’s mental health and physical capability.”

These students want the government to maintain a database of gun owners’ mental health and physical capability. Never mind that these concepts are ill-defined, it’s a massive invasion of privacy that reeks of ableism. The department of motor vehicles’ database, while oppressive, doesn’t include information on the status of the car driver’s mental health and physical capability, and that database isn’t maintained by a department of the Trump regime. The potential for abuse here is horrifying.

Change privacy laws to allow mental healthcare providers to communicate with law enforcement.

This is perhaps the most atrocious part of the whole manifesto. Mental health practitioners are already required by law to inform the police on people they believe are a danger to themselves or others. Beyond that, police and mental health shouldn’t be said in the same sentence, as the combination of the two generally ends in death. As I have previously written, people with mental illness are much more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators. One in four neurodivergent people experience sexual, physical, or domestic violence in any given year. Approximately half of the people shot and killed by police from 1980 to 2008 were mentally ill. Allowing the police increased access to mental health records puts cops in the doctor’s chair and makes it less likely for those in need to seek help. These privacy laws exist so that people feel comfortable and safe seeking professional help in a culture where mental health problems are still heavily stigmatized; tearing them down will have the opposite effect.

Raise the firearm purchase age to 21.

“With the exception of those who are serving the United States in the military, the age to obtain any firearm must be raised to 21.”

Again with the military exceptions. The intention behind this age cut-off is to prevent high school students from buying guns. However, if we find 18-year-olds morally capable of choosing to be murderers for the state, they should also be permitted to defend themselves. If “March for Our Lives,” is truly a march to protest gun violence, violence committed by the military, the most rampant and overlooked gun violence of all, should not be taken for granted as acceptable in the manifesto.

Increase funding for school security.

If you want to talk about the fear of being shot in school, let’s talk about black children that already reasonably live in fear of being shot by the police. So far police have killed significantly more people than mass shooters this year. Now you’re asking schools to be more heavily policed because it makes you feel safe, while claiming to also support black lives? Talk about white privilege.

On that note, gun control has a racist history and a racist present. Like other laws regarding victimless crimes, existing gun laws are disproportionately enforced against people of color. More laws mean more people in prison, more stop-and-frisking, and more police raids, all of which hurt people of color more than anyone else.

Takeaways.

The policy proposals put forth in the Parkland survivors’ manifesto are dangerous and will likely bring about more violence than they stop. These fear-based policies hyper-focus on and exaggerate mass shootings, a tiny subset of gun violence, at the expense of the mentally ill, people of color, and other marginalized groups. By failing to recognize gun violence committed by police and the military, and increasing the power imbalance between state and citizen, these proposals do not eliminate violence. At best, they shift the problem around. At worst, they will put more people in prison, put less people in therapists’ offices, and make schools less safe.

In times of fear, we all feel the need to do something. But “doing something” that causes more harm than good is worse than doing nothing at all.

 

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