Kyle’s Column: Today’s teenagers – the catalysts for gun control reform


In the latest installment of Kyle’s Column, WSPN’s Opinions Editor Kyle Chen reflects upon the lessons that come with having a cold.

Kyle Chen

On April 20, 1999, two students walked into Columbine High School armed with guns and explosives. They proceeded to murder 13 people and wound 20 more in a massacre that would be remembered as the beginning of a long history of school-based mass shootings in the United States.

The events of Columbine sparked a national debate on gun control. The controversy of the issue – whether or not restricting the possession of firearms was unconstitutional – led to political impasse, and in the years since, lawmakers have tried and failed many times to pass gun restriction laws.

All the while, school mass shootings in America have steadily increased in frequency and number. In the years since Columbine, our country has seen more than 130 school-related mass shootings. Just this year alone, there have already been five reported incidents of school shootings, the latest being the tragedy that occurred last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Almost 20 years have passed since the shooting at Columbine High School. During this stretch of time, people have pushed for gun control reform on many occasions. Incidents of brutal gun violence have incited numerous protests across the country. Yet, time and time again these demonstrations have failed to produce any change in firearm legislature.

However, in the weeks following the Parkland shooting, it feels as though the time for change has finally come. Protests caused President Trump to propose a ban on bump stocks and caused the Florida state legislature to pass a measure titled the “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act,” which raised the minimum age requirement to purchase a gun.

So what’s different about this wave of protests? What makes Parkland different from, say, Sandy Hook? Why have lawmakers, who have overwhelmingly turned a blind eye on gun control in the past, suddenly decided to take action? The answer lies in the leaders of this movement: teenagers.

The protests that came in the wake of the Parkland shooting have attracted so much attention primarily because they have been organized and carried out by students–not only students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but by students all around the country. Two of my classmates, sophomores Hailey Robinson and Jess Reilly, have organized a walkout at WHS in support of the national school walkout on March 14.

Reading stories in the news about the tremendous leadership and passion demonstrated by students all around the country has inspired me greatly and has given me hope for the future. This isn’t just about gun control; the stories about the Parkland protests foreshadow the rise of a new generation–one that is educated, socially aware, and willing to stand up for what it believes in.

Now, I’ll admit it–there have been many times when I have looked at my generation, the people I see at school every day, the kids I’ve grown up with, and wondered if we would truly ever be ready to inherit the world and steer it forward on the right path. As my English class recently discussed, our generation’s culture, which has been dominated by social media and other forms of “mindless” entertainment, is vastly different from that of past generations, in that widespread technology has made our culture much more connected.

To me, what the Parkland protests demonstrate is that despite this change in culture, my generation is more socially aware than many people give it credit for. Yes, there are kids who live in their own little bubbles, who couldn’t care less about social and political issues of today. But there are just as many who do care, who are aware of and understand the problems we face, who will stand up and work together to fix these issues and make the world a better place.

The battle about gun control has been a long and difficult fight, and even this wave of student-led protests may not bring about a lasting solution to the problem. In the current political climate, where compromise is rare, it may take many years before an issue as controversial as gun control can be resolved. But even if the Parkland protests eventually meet the same fate as their predecessors and fail to create change, I don’t think that is too much to worry about. It’s only a matter of time before a new generation takes the stage–a generation of educated, socially conscious citizens who will, through cooperation and compromise, find a way to solve the issue of gun control, and much, much more.

Opinion articles written by staff members represent their personal views. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent WSPN as a publication.