Viewpoint: Congress needs to act, our lives depend on it

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Sheridan School is located at 4400 36th St. NW. (photo courtesy of Sheridan School)
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We are Gwyneth Field, Elijah Weissman and Sabrina Kestnbaum-Cook. We are seventh graders at Sheridan School in Washington, DC.  We are athletes, club members and hard-working students. Although we are just 12 and 13 years old, we already know there are vital issues the government has refused to address and has put our lives at risk.

For us and millions of other young people around the country, the issue of gun violence has become a national crisis that is more than just a red or blue debate, but a debate of life or death.

We are a generation who have grown up knowing the names of places like Sandy Hook, Sutherland Springs and Las Vegas as sites of unspeakable tragedy. We have grown up knowing about violence in cities enabled by easy access to guns.  Most recently we have learned of the heartbreaking shooting in Parkland, Fla. In the aftermath of this horrific event, our first emotions were fear and sadness, We realized, perhaps for the first time, that we could be just as much at risk as Stoneman Douglas students were, and that is a terrifying realization that no child growing up in the United States should have to face. We do not believe we should have to be afraid to come to school. School is supposed to be the place where we learn, grow and feel safe, so why can’t we?

As students, we realize we need to be a part of the #NeverAgain movement and we need to stand up! We need to stand up against the fact that tens of thousands of people have died because our government, the people who are supposed to be protecting our country, have refused to act.

The Second Amendment, written in 1791, states that Americans have the right to keep and bear arms. However, that was in 1791. It is 2018. In 2018, semi-automatic rifles that shoot 150 bullets in six minutes, guns that killed 20 first graders and their teachers, are the guns that exist. We need to address this change and recognize that technology has evolved and our laws need to as well. To do this, the government needs to act.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan have made it clear that gun control is not on their agenda. We believe they are more worried about satisfying the National Rifle Association (NRA) lobby and their political base than meeting the broad public’s demand. Those in congress know the NRA will campaign in primaries against Republicans who support gun control, and they do not want to stand up to these interests. Dodging the public demand for gun control legislation, they have instead pushed forward bills supposedly designed to improve school safety. School safety bills that never once use the word gun are no substitute for gun control legislation. Any political motivations that are preventing Mr. McConnell and Mr. Ryan from taking gun control actions are endangering our safety. They must set aside their partisan interests, for this is not a political issue. It is a human issue — a human crisis.

We want a ban on all semi-automatic and automatic assault rifles because there is no legitimate use for these guns. They can’t be used for hunting, though we have seen, far too often, how they can be used to kill people. We also demand a ban on bump stocks. These are devices that turn semi-automatic rifles into fully automatic weapons. In addition, we insist that any person interested in buying a gun needs a thorough background check. This would check for any criminal connections and any sign of mental health issues We need these laws to be implemented.

We are students with at least nine years of schooling ahead of us. If government officials are not willing to implement, let alone even consider these laws, how can they tell us they are doing all they can to keep us safe?

Politicians can delay or the media can get distracted with a new headline, but let’s be clear: we, students are not going to be silenced, we are not going to fade away.  We will continue to be in newspapers, in social media and on the streets until the government takes action to outlaw these killing machines.

We demand this action, and we demand it now!

– Gwyneth Field, Elijah Weissman and Sabrina Kestnbaum-Cook are seventh graders at Sheridan School.