Opinion Article: Orange Balloons

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By: Lachlan Shon

On March 14, 2018, Valencia High School (VHS) hosted a memorial service in the quad area to memorialize the 17 victims that died in the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting at Parkland, Florida on February 13, 2018. Since the tragic massacre, the issue of gun control and school safety has been reinvigorating the entire nation to think about why such an act occurs. It also nudges legislators in the United States government to revisit laws surrounding this controversial issue and what steps can be used to prevent such heinous activities. Throughout the nation, students have held demonstrations and memorial activities to raise awareness to local communities and legislation with a concise, powerful message: that “enough is enough” with school shootings.

Organized and led by students Amy Yoon, Jiyoo Jeong, and Meghan Wang, balloons were cut with each representing victims slain in Florida and a moment of silence was observed. The student organizers took the initiative to plan and encouraged other peers to wear orange for this occasion and orange ribbons were distributed by students to the gathered crowd. Compared to most of the demonstrations across the country, the student orchestrated event held a more commemorative and peaceful gathering to emphasize more about why tragedies like this happen and gain support for more drastic change in political policies. Vivian Yee and Alan Blinder’s New York Times article: National School Walkout: Thousands Protest Against Gun Violence Across the U.S. mentioned that in some schools, very few students took a stand to even talk about such incidents, while others decided to hold protest posters and demanded immediate change in gun control policy. Some even went to the extreme as to berate the current presidential legislation as being completely ignorant in such a situation. However, Yoon, Jeong, and Wang were able to unite a wide variety of students and staff members for seventeen minutes to simply gather together and offer their condolences for such a tragedy as well as accumulating signatures for letters sent to Congress for enacting change. Instead of a loud rally that some schools in the nation chose, the demonstration at VHS was able to successfully raise awareness and calmly encourage students and staff, especially those with the power to vote, to pressure their local legislators and Congressman to enact change within gun control policy and to take further measures in minimizing school massacres throughout the nation.

On the policy of gun control, while there is reasonable concern from students and teachers about safety measures necessary to prevent another school shooting, the fact of the matter is that requesting Congressional and nationwide change on gun control laws and procedures comes down to one simple phrase: It is easier said than done. The demonstration at Valencia did encourage soon-to-be voters and current voters to take a legal stand on stricter gun laws. It also called for stricter enforcement on background checks and demilitarizing certain areas. While this may seem well-intentioned, there are drawbacks to it. Though background checks and limits are placed for any gun purchases and ownership, it does not mean people follow procedure both on the consumer and seller side. Laws do not mean anything if there are people willing to break them and no one is enforcing them. It is our job as a society to determine whether or not our current laws are being enforced thoroughly and honestly. Until that enforcement is present, society cannot demand new laws without even trying to use the ones that are already in place. And even if the nation has moved past that point, there is still a whole legislative process in implementing such changes. The New York Times Article, How to Reduce Mass Shooting Deaths? Experts Rank Gun Laws, by Margot Sanger-Katz and Quoctrung Bui states it would remain unknown how long this entire process would take and then there is the question that arises concerning whether or not the nation would be satisfied with the changes both short term and long term.

Nevertheless, the demonstration at VHS was impactful in unifying a great portion of the school together towards a single mindset and goal. Social media contributed a significant role in spreading the word. Sites like Instagram created a meaningful yet relatable post, #ENOUGH, that made VHS part of the nationwide call to enact change within the mindsets of students, administrators, and, most of all, the American people. The ribbons and orange t-shirts captures a more spiritual and symbolic connection between the students regardless on how they stand on such a controversial topic like gun control. A peaceful demonstration like the one carried at VHS has created a thoughtful and sincere eulogy to the victims killed in Parkland, Florida. The event united all those that believe that school safety is a priority and reminded our community that we share the same connection with students that we have never met before.

*Please note that the VHS Walkout was created, organized, and led by students, for all parties on campus to voluntarily attend.