By Malcolm Reid
March For Our Lives & Harvard Progressives
BY MALCOLM REID
Recently, progressives around the country participated in the March For Our Lives. Soon, Harvard students will have a sit-in for gun control. And yet, children, students, and innocent Americans will still be endangered en masse. But only if we stay on this course. Why is that? There are many arguments on what policies will and won’t work, but the most important ones will continue to fall on deaf ears. It’s just a matter of approach.
That “NRA thing” is how Cameron of MSD referred to Dana Loesch’s event when he came to Harvard. When these student activists came, they raised many legitimate points and left me with a lot to think about. Indeed, Emma Gonzales handily earned even more of my respect when she spoke here at the Kennedy School last week. Still, I couldn’t quite get past that statement. Additionally, the NRA has been accused by some of the leaders and base of the March For Our Lives movement of dealing in ‘blood money,’ of buying out congressmen, and of being a terrorist organization. This isn’t conducive to productive discussion.
To be fair, this isn’t shocking. People fear what they don’t know. Many conservatives grew up in households that stressed gun safety and were familiar with guns, and I’ve personally handled a belt-fed machine gun and an AR-15 (via West Point). Plus, I’ve been in areas where having a gun is considered strictly necessary for survival, due to high violent crime rates and despite strict gun laws. Most of our peers here haven’t had those experiences, and so don’t fully understand many of these perceptions of guns or the ideas surrounding them, which impairs the ability to communicate.
Despite the movement’s prior insistence that the goal is not to take away all guns, law abiding gun owners who want to protect their families might be forgiven for not easily believing this assertion when everyone is constantly reminded that the movement calls for the removal of congressmen who actively support Second Amendment rights. We’re just talking past each other.
The modern iteration of the NRA is the de facto guardian of Second Amendment rights. To try and force through gun legislation without working with an organization that represents the views of 5 million official members, and many more Americans who haven’t spent money on their membership, would be illogical. And to insult them is to make the same mistake that caused the DNC to lose the past election. Gun rights and self-defense groups aren’t part of an oligarchy; They are a voting bloc made up of some of the most unflinching people in the country and should be recognized as such. In a representative democracy, we can’t steamroll these people, nor can we just try to outlive them: An NPR article shows that people under 30 are not actually more progressive about gun control than older generations.
Critically, the answer for this movement is to actively work with gun rights supporters. There must be a dialogue between constitutionalists and progressives working through what solutions we’ll consider, and which of those solutions will work. The Stop School Violence Act (which one vocal survivor, Kyle Kashuv, worked towards) is a start. Sadly, it won’t stop all mass shootings, and people will become increasingly frustrated until, I fear, our country makes a decision without thorough discourse.
We are in a position, where in order to defend the Second Amendment successfully, we need to be more proactive, which is what an effective policy can be worked towards. Extremes are being discussed on both sides: gun rights groups might consider funding specially designed training for school resource officers, or they might consider completely cover the costs of arming the teachers who believe that to better serve students they should carry arms responsibly. To account for these extremes and discover a solution, the dialogue has to be cooperative. As it stands, we’re all in defense mode, and this could bring many efforts to a halt.
By legitimately working together, I believe we can find solutions grounded in gun safety training and similar concepts, while also addressing the fact that to truly stop mass shootings the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have to focus on detailed procedures and the recognition of danger as early as possible; and we can work towards accountability there. Additionally, as the recent bombings in Austin have shown, this heated and focused discussion might involve shootings, but we won’t be safe from other premeditated attacks and violent crime, and people’s lives will be continue to be threatened. I believe we can remove the roadblock we have created for ourselves through miscommunication by reinstating good faith in each other here.
Hence, my challenge to my colleagues here at Harvard. There are many students and faculty members on campus who support the right to self-defense and the Second Amendment. Consider reaching out and working to understand why this is. As Harvard students in search of veritas, this should be the main priority. Reason through arguments based on protection and tyranny, on feminism, or on precedent set by Prohibition and the War on Drugs, and we will come to a more complete picture of reality. If you feel you have a moral obligation to work against violence, we must understand that this is the only feasible starting point. Otherwise, we insult the memory of those we’ve lost.
Andrew Pollack, who tragically lost his daughter, said “we as a country failed our children.” We did. More than once. We can’t fail them, not this time. Surely, the odds aren’t insurmountable. Are our egos?
Malcolm Reid ’21 ([email protected]) is now prepared to create a hate mailbox.