By now, we’re used to it. In fact, we’ve come to expect it.
Whenever there’s a mass shooting, there’s bound to be some public display of emotion that tends to include anti-gun comments made by speakers. It’s as normal as blue skies or Paris Hilton being annoying.
But following the shooting in Thousand Oaks, California, we didn’t see it, which was a surprise.
While we didn’t hear much in the wake of the Santa Fe High School shooting, that was in Texas. Texas has a lot of people in favor of guns in general and people who understand that it’s not the gun’s fault.
California is a different animal entirely. It’s a rabidly anti-gun state, and Thousand Oaks isn’t exactly in the rural part of the state that bucks the overall trend there. So what gives?
Apparently, it was a conscious choice.
Three weeks after a gunman fired more than 50 rounds into a country music bar in a quiet town in Southern California—killing 11 patrons and staff and one responding officer, before taking his own life—students at two local colleges walked out of their classrooms to draw attention to gun violence in the United States.
“It’s beyond a national crisis. Something needs to happen,” Moorpark College student body president Andrew Lopez says. Moorpark’s student government organized the demonstration to coincide with the time of the first 911 calls to report shots fired at Borderline Bar and Grill: Those calls came in around 11:20 p.m., local time, on Wednesday, November 9th. The demonstration started at 11:20 a.m., on Wednesday, November 28th. In addition to Moorpark, sister school Ventura College also held a walkout at the same time.
As a consequence, many Ventura County student organizers I spoke with were reluctant to make “More gun control” a centerpiece of their events.
Take the walkout that the student government at California State University–Channel Islands organized in April, in solidarity with the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, who had endured a school shooting in February. Sary Nguyen, then a student senator, explains the demonstration’s philosophy over Facebook Messenger: “Our gripe was that [the Parkland student activism] focused in too much on the issue of anti-gun, an issue we know all too well is controversial and is resistant to change. Therefore, we wanted to go in with a more ‘human’ approach. Honoring the lives that were lost. Sending thoughtful words to them and to those within our own personal lives that were lost in such events.”
I’m going to give these kids credit. They’re smart.
More importantly, they’re right.
The Parkland kids jumped on the anti-gun wagon right from the start, and absolutely none of us gave a damn what they had to say about anything else. We knew discussion was useless, so why bother? Instead, we went ignored them for a time, then mocked them for the stupid things they allowed to come out of their mouths.
But the approach from Thousand Oaks? Now, these are people willing to be reasonable. They’re at least willing to talk. They’re not starting off by demanding things we’re not remotely interested in giving them.
There’s a lesson here for people wanting to make a difference when it comes to reducing violence in general and mass shootings in particular.