Student lives matter; children’s lives matter. So it is high time the nation’s political leaders do something meaningful to protect them.
That’s the passionate message that thousands of Florida students rightly delivered to the nation over the weekend at rallies in Fort Lauderdale and St. Petersburg. Joined by parents and teachers, the crowds of young people expressed their rage and grief about the horrifying Parkland school shooting last week that killed 17. A 19-year-old, mentally disturbed former student who legally purchased an AR-15-style assault rifle has been charged as the shooter.
It’s encouraging that thousands of youth in Florida and around the nation are speaking up about the need for sensible gun control measures. They’re rightly demanding that political leaders do what the majority of Americans want them to do — adopt reasonable firearms regulations. We’re hoping their poignant pleas will be a watershed that propels action adult lawmakers have thus far failed to take.
During news interviews over the weekend, survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting said they’re calling for March 24 demonstrations around the nation called the “March for Our Lives,” because they are determined to make the tragedy at their school the turning point in the U.S. gun control debate.
Said 11th-grader Cameron Kasky to ABC news: “We are going to be marching together as students, begging for our lives.’’ He added that young people whose lives are on the line feel neglected by political leaders.
In his short address to the nation last week, President Donald Trump focused on the mental health aspect of the tragedy but said nothing about guns. And just two days before the Parkland shooting, the Trump administration proposed a budget that would cut millions in federal aid for mental health and school safety programs.
The president’s spending plan would result in major cuts to mental health services provided within the Medicaid program that serves more than 70 million low-income and disabled people. His proposal would also deliver a 37 percent cut to an Education Department grant program that supports safer schools, reducing it by $25 million from the current level of $67.5 million.
Funds targeted for reduction or elimination in the education budget plan have helped pay for things such as school counselors, violence prevention programs and mental health assistance. The recommended spending would zero out a $400 million grant program that districts can use, for example, to prevent bullying or provide mental health services.
In a statement, an administration spokesperson said that Trump is now “supportive’’ of efforts to improve the federal background check system. And it was announced that the president would meet Wednesday with a group of Florida students for a “listening session’’ about their gun control concerns.
If Trump not only listens but truly hears and understands the teenagers, he will join their cause and push for reasonable firearm controls that include stronger background checks, eliminating bump stocks and limiting access to rapid-fire weapons.