Editor’s Note: Sam Resnick, Noah Kaufman, Jonathan Blank and Ethan Rocha are juniors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the site of last week’s school shooting. The views expressed in this commentary are their own.
Before February 14, 2018, our only familiarity with gun violence was limited to the world of video games – the ones that our parents were strongly opposed to us playing. After February 14, 2018, our only memory of gun violence will be the blood of our classmates and teachers, staining the halls of our Florida high school.
That fateful afternoon, a 19-year-old former student, who had legally purchased an AR-15 despite showing signs of instability, decided to play the Angel of Death. Thanks to him, we lost our innocence – and 17 of our friends lost their lives.
Admittedly, we had heard about other school shootings like Columbine and Sandy Hook. We’d even watched several of these tragedies play out on TV. We felt empathy for those suffering, but, regrettably, we watched as their tragedies failed to move the dial at the legislative level.
Which is why, after the shootings had faded from the headlines, we moved on. That is, until we were the ones dodging bullets.
We are certain that those politicians who advocate for limited or no gun regulation share our former ignorance. They likely do not have firsthand experience with the horrors of mass shootings. In their defense, it typically takes that kind of personal connection to fully process the gravity of an issue.
To put it simply, personal experience changes political priorities. Take Senator Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, who did an about-face with respect to gay rights when he learned that his son is gay. The formerly staunchly anti-gay-marriage politician reversed course – embracing a more progressive way of thinking.
And we, too, have adopted a new way of thinking – one we hope can prevent future shootings. As previously apolitical young adults, we are taking our first crack at doing what the adults have failed to do: offer a concrete solution to this plague of violence.
The National Rifle Association, which pours millions into funding pro-gun politicians and candidates for office, works on behalf of gun enthusiasts and gun manufacturers alike. And gun manufacturers – like any business – are entitled to make money and, ideally, increase their bottom line from year to year.
Unfortunately, gun sales pose a greater risk to the general population than the sale of many other goods. And, so, we’ve come up with a solution where the gun manufacturers get their money, and we get to go to school without fear for our lives.
Specifically, the federal government should assess the value of each gun manufacturer in this country and buy them out for a significant profit. If company X has a street value of $100 million, pay them $200 million. If company Y has a value of $300 million, pay them $600 million.
Then the government would be able to control and regulate gun sales. And unlike gun manufacturers, its bottom line is not dollar signs, but rather the safety of the American people. So the government would be more invested in ensuring guns do not get into the hands of mentally unstable individuals.
In addition, the government should buy every assault rifle from private citizens using a similar formula. We are confident that our Founding Fathers, when writing the Second Amendment, never contemplated assault rifles would be sold to the general public anyway.
And there is some precedent for government buying guns back. Cities across the country – from New York to Chicago – have already engaged in gun buyback programs. It’s time we take it from the micro to the macro level, at least when it comes to assault rifles.
And, finally, let’s pass legislation that will restrict future sales of assault rifles to law enforcement. No private citizen needs weapons that powerful. We should limit them to the individuals sworn to protect us.
If we follow this three-pronged approach, everyone can win: the NRA, the gun manufacturers, the gun owner and, most importantly, society. This isn’t a panacea, of course, but it does have the potential to save lives.