A child shall lead them

2/22/2018, 9:19 p.m.

• On May 1, 1963, more than 1,000 students from elementary through high school skipped class and marched in downtown Birmingham, Ala., to end segregation. They defied their parents and school officials and were arrested by the hundreds. The next day when hundreds more students turned out in protest, police Commissioner Bull Connor responded with violence. Fire hoses and police dogs were turned on the students and billy clubs were used to beat and arrest them. The chilling, bloody images were broadcast across the nation. The Children’s March or Children’s Crusade, as it is now known, ended on May 10, 1963, when city officials promised to desegregate downtown stores and release all the protesters from jail.

• Student-led protests and demonstrations across the nation are credited with spurring the July 1971 change in the U.S. Constitution granting 18-year-olds the right to vote. Young people were angered that they could be drafted at 18 to fight and die in Vietnam, but weren’t allowed to vote. They wanted a voice in the political process and in selecting politicians who were deciding their fate. Through their activism, and the vote of the people in 38 states, the 26th Amendment became law of the land.

Since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, in which 20 children and six adults were killed, more than 1,600 mass shootings — shootings of four or more people — have taken place in the United States. More than 1,800 people have been killed and more than 6,400 have been wounded.

Congress has refused to budge, even on basic, common sense gun control measures such as universal background checks for gun purchases and banning bump stocks used to turn semiautomatic weapons into automatic killing machines. Their failure to act to protect the people of this nation has jaded even the hardest-working adult activists.

That’s where the young people are important. We believe the Florida students’ actions and passion will galvanize the nation, leading to a sea change among even the most recalcitrant lawmakers.

As President Richard Nixon said in 1971 when he signed the 26th Amendment into law at a White House ceremony attended by 500 newly eligible 18-year-old voters: 

 “The reason I believe that your generation, the 11 million new voters, will do so much for America at home is that you will infuse into this nation some idealism, some courage, some stamina, some high moral purpose, that this country always needs.”

We believe in and support the courage and stamina of the young people from Florida, and call on every individual to support their high moral purpose to strengthen the gun laws in this nation. 

As they have said, “Enough is enough.” Tougher gun laws are what this country needs.