A half-million people gathered in Washington, D.C., March 24, to hear an all-youth set of speakers call for safe schools and neighborhoods. They were energized by grief at the killing of 17 Florida high-school students in February by a deranged shooter. The killer had legally purchased an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, after NRA-financed gun training at the school and after widely-reported threatening behavior.
No one foresaw the explosion of youth activism that brought the anti-violence rallies to 800 cities worldwide, and to 390 of 435 U.S. congressional districts. The rallies also highlighted nonwhite students’ concerns about firearms in their schools and communities and their excessive and deadly use by white-run police departments.
Many placards and speakers protested the influence of the National Rifle Association, a voice of the arms industry. Young people are rising up against the U.S. culture of violence. Their movement for safety from high-casualty weapons will run up against the policies of war that most loudly embody this worship of death. The President has just elevated officials and advisors, Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, known for their calls for war against North Korea and Iran. The protests against gun violence in schools are bound to become protests against U.S. militarism and nuclear threats.
A new upsurge in massive street protests began on the day of Trump’s inauguration and continues to rise. Women’s marches have led to protests against deportations, which have been joined by “Black Lives Matter” protests. The March 24 mass actions were preceded and built by widespread student walkouts from schools March 14. The teachers of West Virginia, on another front, won a pay increase by walking out for nine days despite anti-strike laws.
The gun-control movement will have to face the reality that placing all weapons in the hands of the capitalist state will not solve the problem; the routine racist police killings of Black men help show this. Partial solutions include democratic community supervision of all weapons, including those in the hands of the state. For neighborhoods and schools to be safe, the entire population needs to regulate firearms. Semi-automatic weapons, in particular, are dangerous without training and supervision, because of their killing power. They are symbolic of the even more massive killing power of the U.S. military, which goes unregulated throughout the world.