Benjamin Franklin once said, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” It’s an important statement, especially since giving up liberty has an annoying tendency to make us less safe anyway.
However, Saturday saw hundreds of thousands of kids–the estimates range from 800,000 reported by the oh-so-reliable Brady Campaign to just over 200,000 by CBS news–take to the streets of our nation’s capital to ask for safety by giving up liberty.
It seems that quote isn’t taught much in schools.
It wasn’t just these three—from what I saw and heard at the rally, dying in school was a remarkably ubiquitous fear among young people. I spotted a little girl, perched on her father’s shoulders, waving a sign bearing the text “Am I Next?”
Marissa, a teenage girl from Michigan, told me she felt unsafe in school, and thought more security would help. Teenager after teenager testified that their fears of death were all-consuming, ever-present, and more justified than ever before.
Missing from these conversations was any awareness of a very basic, indisputable fact: Gun violence has declined precipitously over the past 25 years, and most Americans are much safer today than they were a generation ago.
American children do not “risk their lives” when they show up to school each morning — or at least, not nearly as much as they do whenever they ride in a car, swim in a pool, or put food in their mouths (an American’s lifetime odds of dying in a mass shooting committed in any location is 1 in 11,125; of dying in a car accident is 1 and 491; of drowning is 1 in 1,133; and of choking on food is 1 in 3,461). Criminal victimization in American schools has collapsed in tandem with the overall crime rate, leaving U.S. classrooms safer today than at any time in recent memory.
Obviously, it’s understandable for the survivors of the horrific events in Parkland to be feeling unsafe, given what happened to them. But mass shootings are not the norm, and kids don’t need to be terrified of going to school.
They shouldn’t be, but the media has done all it can to spin them up into believing that they could all die at any time. They’re not, but try convincing some of them of that fact.
It doesn’t help that a number of adults were with them, and they all buy into the same line of bovine excrement.
All they know is that the media seems to be talking about mass shootings all the time, which must mean mass shootings are happening all the time. They’re not.
Not only that, but, while no one can argue how tragic it is when kids are murdered, I’m not about to give up my sacred rights because someone else thinks it will make things marginally safer, especially since I know that it won’t.
However, it’s important to understand where people like these kids are coming from. It’s very important to understand it. We have to understand it so we can counter it.