After the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the world wept “not again,” routine talking points were dusted off, and thoughts and prayers rolled in.
But the students who survived have declared: “Never Again!” They don't accept the national failure to protect them as inevitable. They are following the tradition of their school’s namesake, a crusader for justice who fought for Florida’s wetlands, demanded voting rights for women and built the first ACLU chapter in the South.
Like Douglas, these students demand meaningful action. They hit a brick wall in Tallahassee, facing lawmakers who misused the Constitution to avoid more meaningful action.
While the Second Amendment confers a right to bear arms, the Constitution does not prevent lawmakers from adopting reasonable restrictions to prevent communities and schools from becoming war zones.
“The Second Amendment right is not unlimited,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the Supreme Court. “It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”
Lawmakers, Scalia wrote, “may regulate concealed weapons, prohibit possession of firearms by felons, forbid firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, and impose conditions on their sale.”
Lawmakers can require universal background checks, close loopholes in how guns are purchased, limit ammunition capacity and ban dangerous and unusual weapons.
None of these restrictions violate the Constitution. Indeed, the Supreme Court has declined to review bans on assault weapons.
We can also invest in community mental health services, add more school counselors and expand programs to help our youth develop the skills to navigate crises.
What we cannot do is ask our students to bear more of the burden of gun violence.
Our kids, especially youth of color, are being arrested at school for misbehavior that was once handled by school administrators. A generation is being pushed from the classroom to prison. Adding more school resource officers without defining their roles will increase arrests.
Most Florida school districts already have an officer at every high school. But they are too often involved in routine discipline resulting in increased youth interaction with the criminal justice system. Doubling down on the school-to-prison pipeline is counterproductive.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas said, “You have to stand up for some things in this world.” And students are doing exactly that.
Let’s stop misusing the Second Amendment to shut down the debate about how to end gun violence.
Howard Simon, executive director,
American Civil Liberties Union of Florida,