Students: Do not become discouraged and disheartened by slow movement on gun control (letter)
On April 20, 1999, 12 students were senselessly murdered at Columbine High School in what we then believed was a horror that could never happen again.
In 1999, my daughter was 17. We lived in Littleton, and she knew many of the students who lived through that day of terror.
In 1999, she joined a group of students at East High School in Denver who were members of S.A.F.E. Colorado (Sane Alternatives to the Firearms Epidemic). This group of students, together with sponsors, including Dottie Lamm (wife of former Governor Dick Lamm) and Tom Mauser (father of Daniel, also a Columbine victim) traveled to Washington, D.C., to encourage Congress to pass laws to restrict access to firearms.
In 1999, these students met with Colorado Reps. Scott McInnis, Ben Nighthorse Campbell and other members of Congress. This meeting was acknowledged in the Congressional Record on July 14, 1999, by Rep. Udall, who stated, “I urge that all Members listen to what they have to say. I have visited numerous high schools in my district, and what I have learned is that these young women and men know their schools better than anyone else in their communities and certainly better than any of us here in the Congress. We can all learn from their experience and advice.
“Additionally, these young men and women do not care about politics or posturing. Instead, they care about whether they are going to be safe in their schools. … Gun laws are not the only answer, but I think they are a crucial part of the equation. I hope the House will have the wisdom to listen to these students and pass sensible gun safety measures that our colleagues in the Senate have already endorsed. … The vast majority of Coloradans and Americans support sensible gun safety laws and so should we.”
Despite such lovely rhetoric, my daughter came home disheartened and dispirited. She said, “Mom, their eyes glazed over when we gave our presentation. We worked so hard and we had all the facts and they wouldn’t even engage with us. They treated us like babies.”
In 2018, I see the same passion and energy in the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas School and in the students who walked out on March 14 in support of them and their efforts for gun control. I congratulate those who took part but caution them that they will hear the same rhetoric that my daughter heard. They may also see eyes glaze over and representatives more concerned with “posturing and politics” than with whether “students are going to be safe in schools.”
I beg you, do not become discouraged and disheartened as my daughter did. Change has always been a generational matter. What took place on March 14 was not just a march; it is part of a movement. And like the movement of glaciers, it may be painfully slow, but it is persistently strong and can move mountains.
It will not happen today; it has not happened since that painful day almost two decades ago when we first lost our innocent belief that we could protect our children from violence. But if our young people and the “vast majority who support sensible gun laws” do not despair, it will happen. In this era of sound bites and short attention spans, it’s critical that you remember Nelson Mandela’s words, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”