‘Never Again’: Parkland students creating a movement for policy change

Katarina Kovac, Staff Reporter

The survivors of the Feb. 14 mass shooting in Parkland, Florida are calling for the United States Congress to take action to prevent future school shootings. Their actions are allowing for gun laws to be debated on a national scale, unlike ever before.

Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old boy who was previously expelled from the high school, opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSD) in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 and wounding many others.

The shooting massacre at MSD not only reignited the national debate over gun control, but also launched a group of teenage activists. The activist movement that emerged in its aftermath is called “Never Again.” The students are holding a nationwide protest in Washington D.C., scheduled for March 24.

David Chipman currently serves as a senior policy advisor at Giffords, the gun violence prevention organization led by former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords who survived an assassination attempt in Tucson, AZ.

Previously, he served as a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for 25 years. During this career from 1987 until 2012, he performed many duties to include serving as a member of ATF’s version of SWAT, investigated and arrested gun traffickers and supervised the ATF office in Flint, Michigan.

Chipman firmly believes that mass shootings, such as the massacre at MSD, could have been prevented.  

“These events are not acceptable nor are they normal,” Chipman said. “To prevent these mass shootings, we have to more closely regulate how people acquire firearms, especially the same firearms I used as a member of ATF’s SWAT team.”

There are many gun control measures that could have prevented this massacre performed by Nikolas Cruz.

“Mandatory background checks for every gun sale and limiting the age to possess or acquire firearms until the age of 21 would have prevented this shooting,” Chipman said.

A common debate in regard to gun ownership lies in the second amendment and the right to keep and bear arms.

“Most importantly, the court has also ruled that government has the right to regulate who can possess guns and under what conditions in support of public safety,” Chipman said.  “If the government regulated guns like they regulate cars in America, these events would be greatly reduced.”

Since 2013, there have been nearly 300 school shootings in America — an average of about one a week. Officials argue that a major influence within these shooters is mental illness, but the facts beg to differ.

“Many have estimated that mental health is only the proximate cause of around 5 percent of gun violence incidents,” Chipman said.  “Most persons who suffer mental illness are not violent. What researchers do see is that illnesses such as depression and access to a gun increase the risk of a successful suicide attempt.”

President Donald Trump recently proposed that teachers should be armed in schools in an effort to keep students safe. Chipman believes that it is a reckless and dangerous proposal.

“It is a craven attempt of the gun lobby to once again convince America that public safety is the responsibility of every individual who can only survive by buying more guns and carrying them at all times at the ready to win a Hollywood gunfight,” Chipman said. “A police officer cannot be expected to guard an entire school against a mass shooter carrying weapons of war and a willingness to die, either.”

The survivors of the shooting at MSD have opened conversation regarding gun control in ways that no other group of survivors has been able to.

“Our children are leading where their parents have failed,” Chipman said.

The Parkland students have had the ability to turn grief into a national movement.  They’re here to make change while enforcing gun control regulations, not by sending “thoughts and prayers.”