xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Pugh: Maryland school shooting underscores importance of 'March for Our Lives'

Students at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute were among thousands in Maryland and across the nation who poured out of their schools around 10 a.m. Wednesday in a coordinated effort to honor the 17 lives lost one month ago in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.

“The young, free to act on their initiative, can lead their elders in the direction of the unknown. … The children, the young, must ask the questions that we would never think to ask.”

— Margaret Mead

Advertisement

As we again experience yet another tragic school shooting in America, this time in our own backyard at Great Mills High School in Lexington Park, Md., we can take heart knowing that an unanticipated force for change has emerged in these early days of 2018. It’s the force of our young people who are asking the questions many adults have failed to ask; demanding the answers that for too long have been evaded; requiring action in the face of persistent inaction, despite unconscionable violence and tragedy in the places they are sent to learn and mature. They are disrupting the status quo and proving a catalyst for change in our national and local conversations about the society we are, and more importantly, about the society we need to become.

This weekend, tens of thousands of young people from across this nation and from our own city will converge on our nation’s capital to make their voices heard in the March for Our Lives, to demand change and accountability of their elders who have yet to earn their admiration and respect. The ask of our young citizens is simple and clear: Stop gun violence. Stop murder in their schools. End the unmitigated tragedy of so many young lives lost because of easy access to weapons that should only be available to trained soldiers on a battlefield. Require a background check for anyone who seeks to purchase a gun.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Students at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute poured out the back doors of the school and onto the football field just before 10 a.m. Wednesday, joining with thousands of students in Maryland and across the nation in a coordinated effort.

Imagine that we’ve come to this. If you’re of a somewhat older generation, you will no doubt recall the occasional classroom drill of crawling beneath your desk or huddling in a cloakroom to prepare for the prospect of a tornado. A generation even older will remember the drill for the unlikely, but more ominous threat that arose at the dawn of the Cold War and the nuclear age. The children of today, however, prepare for a far more plausible threat — the prospect of an “active shooter” who shows up without warning or provocation and mercilessly guns them down for no other reason than being at school.

It is our constant and national shame that Americans are 25 times more likely to die of gun violence than people in any other developed country. Since 2013, there have been more than 300 school shootings in the United States, roughly one each and every week of the year. Last month, as the world knows, 14 high schoolers and three adults were shot to death at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. And now this latest in which two students were badly injured and the shooter killed at Great Mills High School in Maryland.

Already in these first two and a half months of 2018, there have been nearly 3,000 gun deaths across the country and 21 deaths related to mass shootings. And as if we needed reminding, here in our own city, 343 citizens lost their lives to gun violence in 2017, a level that earned for Baltimore the horrendous distinction as America’s “most dangerous city.”

Gun violence is too important a cause for Baltimore students to be excluded no matter the price.

The young people of our nation have finally had enough and are marching to bring about the change that should have happened long ago, but for petty partisanship and the outsized influence of the moneyed special interest of the NRA. Because others have failed to speak out, our young people must. Because others have failed to lead, our young people will. And because those who could act have not, our young people will now hold them accountable. This is a moment the youth of our day have claimed as their own and which I believe history will record as bringing about a decisive shift in national attitudes and policy.

Advertisement

It is why as mayor of a city that has experienced too much violence, too much devastation due to illegal guns and their murderous effects, that I offered to arrange transport for the young people of our city who wish to combine their voices with others from across the country in this urgent call for change. To be clear, not a single cent of taxpayer funds is being used for this purpose. Many from our community stepped forward to assist with the costs for the needed buses, recognizing the importance of standing with our young people and enabling their impact in a cause we must all embrace.

In my regular conversations with city agency heads, leaders of business, university and foundation presidents, it’s my constant request and challenge to them that we identify even more ways to support the youth of our city, many of whom are victims of violence, systemic neighborhood neglect and the economic disparity that limits their imaginations as well as their options. We have no more urgent task than to disrupt the cycle of hopelessness that inevitably leads many of our young people into the culture of crime and violence. A first important step is letting them know that their views matter, that despite their socio-economic disadvantages, their voices are equal and deserve to be heard.

Gunfire rang out at Great Mills High School in Southern Maryland as classes began Tuesday morning, the latest school shooting to rattle parents and set off another round of the national debate over gun control.

Those of the extreme right never hesitate to brandish the Constitution at any hint of perceived encroachment on the freedoms it guarantees, typically, the right to bear arms. But of course, our Constitution and its precedent document — the Declaration of Independence — also promise other, more fundamental protections that include not only the freedom to speak out and to “petition for a governmental redress of grievances” but the unalienable right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

The many individuals who have fallen victim to gun violence have forever been denied their sacred rights as Americans. The very least we can do is to cheer on the youth of our city and nation as they now march for these victims — giving voice to grievances that cannot be eased, but which must finally be redressed by those with the power to do so.

Catherine E. Pugh is mayor of the City of Baltimore. Twitter: @MayorPugh50.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement