Shut up and listen
Two weeks ago, I sat with five Eureka Springs High School students in the cafeteria. That wasnít out of the ordinary. Iíve been in that same cafeteria many times interviewing students about an upcoming school play or special events. It would have been normal to me, but this wasnít your average day.
It was the day of the National School Walkout, when students throughout the country stepped out of school for 17 minutes to protest gun violence. The walkout was inspired by the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14. Seventeen people died in the shooting. Seventeen people went to school that day and died for no reason. I still canít wrap my head around that.
Eureka Springs didnít have the traditional walkout, instead opting to host an open forum assembly discussing what causes school shootings and how to respond to them. A few solutions were tossed out, such as requiring students to carry clear backpacks and training some teachers to use firearms
A few students expressed concern over arming teachers. If teachers have a financial incentive to carry a firearm on school grounds, one student asked, wouldnít that encourage more guns on campus? Is the solution to gun violence really more guns? Others said they support those kind of safety measures but still feel uncomfortable knowing guns will be present at school, where all they want is to be safe.
After the assembly ended, I had the privilege of speaking with some of those students. One student told me sheís upset by people who assume gun control means a gun ban. Itís not about banning guns, she said. Itís about controlling who owns guns, so tragedies like the one at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School stop happening. Though sheís not afraid a school shooting will happen in Eureka Springs, she said that fear is still in the back of her mind. It could happen anywhere. They all agreed with that.
We spoke a bit about the young people who have been speaking out about gun violence in our country. One of the students pointed out how adults donít take them seriously. The younger generations are considered too angry, she said, as if itís not OK to get angry when people are being murdered because theyíre in the wrong place at the wrong time. Iíll never forget what she said next.
ďThere are things to get mad about. There are things to be sensitive about. Being active and aware of issues and actively trying to make them better is not a bad thing.Ē
I couldnít agree more. In the weeks since I sat at the table with those students, Iíve been astounded by their bravery in speaking up about such a polarizing issue. Iím sure itís easy for many people to write them off, to say they donít have enough experience to form opinions on this. But they are still humans faced with the threat of being gunned down every day. That kind of fear makes you grow up. It makes you grow up fast.
This week, Iím proud to live in a country with such wonderful activism. Nothing changes if we stay silent. If I were you, Iíd listen to what young people have to say. You might just learn something.
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Samantha Jones is associate editor for Carroll County Newspapers. Her email address is Citizen.Editor.Eureka@gmail.com