Charlie Gers

Liberty is the core principle upon which this country was founded on. Of course, justice and independence were also concepts that were enshrined in the documents that guided the country to what it is today. However, the principle of individual liberty was the driving force behind the 1776 revolution against a brutal, tyrannical British government. Liberty and justice for all has been a part of the American mantra since the beginning, and these ideals shall never perish. It is not a secret that with liberty, there is risk associated—liberty places all the trust on the individual and holds the individual accountable for himself. Despite the risks and the unforeseen events that could arise with liberty, the opportunity cost makes it worth it because grandiose achievements often occur when individuals are free to pursue their own desire and live according to their own wants, as long as they don’t interfere with the rights of others. After the tragic shooting in Parkland on February 14, where 17 young lives were taken, the discussion on guns has gained prominence and been at the forefront of the political stage.

In response to the shooting, youth activists like David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez created “#NeverAgain”, a movement that advocates for more robust gun laws and regulations, and the “March for Our Lives” protest that took place on March 24 in Washington D.C. and various cities across the country. The organization’s mission statement says,
 “Not one more. We cannot allow one more child to be shot at school. We cannot allow one more teacher to make a choice to jump in front of a firing assault rifle to save the lives of students. We cannot allow one more family to wait for a call or text that never comes. Our schools are unsafe. Our children and teachers are dying. We must make it our top priority to save these lives.” 

According to the organizers, approximately 800,000 voices gathered at the nation’s capital to combat gun violence. From young activists to notable performers like Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato, numerous attendees took the stage to fiercely condemn the lack of action from politicians, lenient gun laws, and of course, the NRA. It was an echo chamber; so long as the speaker vigorously said any remark that fulfilled the agenda, the crowd responded zealously with chants and claps. Even though this was supposedly a march made by and made for survivors, not all were welcomed on stage to share their experience—including students like Kyle Kashuv. 

Kyle, unlike his peers, believes that banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines will not diminish or eradicate mass shootings. Like his peers, Kyle agrees that tragedies like these should never happen again. However, he advocates for different solutions than the ones proposed by his classmates. Finding common ground is pivotal, but it often seems impossible under such a polarized, red vs. blue climate. When a speaker is blocked from speaking at a powerful event like this one simply because their views don’t match the views of the rest, it is almost impossible to foster an environment where moderate discussions and dialogues are encouraged. Having different opinions and exchanging views from all parts of the aisles is what makes the First Amendment wonderful. Just like all the other students, Kyle was also there the day of the tragedy and is just as much as a survivor as the rest. Regardless of political views, it is distasteful to see his fellow peers disregard him as if his opinion is irrelevant.

Despite often being silenced or ignored by the media, Kyle has actively been meeting with legislators, senators, and even President Trump to address this issue with a more balanced approach. Kyle, who considers himself a conservative, is an ardent supporter of the Second Amendment. Kyle has voiced his support for the “STOP School Violence Act”, a bill introduced by Rep. John Rutherford that provides grants to states for technical assistance to stop school violence, aims to improve the school security infrastructure, develops crisis intervention teams, and various other measures to prevent another tragedy. The bill overwhelmingly passed the House with a 407-10 vote and given its full bipartisan support in the Senate, it is expected to become law soon.

February 14, 2018, is a day that will forever be engrained in the memories of the American public. Unfortunately, no community is immune from tragedies; they can occur at any point in any location. It’s tough moments like these in which we need to avoid vilifying those who have different opinions on how to approach the situation, and instead embrace the different opinions that have been brought to the table. As this debate continues to rage, abstain from silencing and ignoring those who are on the opposite aisle and promote a discussion where both sides can meet in the middle. Most importantly, never take for granted the liberties and rights that we have in this country, especially in times of crisis. As a renowned politician, scientist, inventor, and author Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who would give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither.”