Editorial: Young voices add urgency to gun reforms

Children and adults who gathered for the March for Our Lives rally in Columbus might have had more pleasurable things to do on a nice Saturday morning, but it’s doubtful they could have done anything more meaningful for our community and nation’s future.

Gun violence had mobilized them to do something, anything, to try to stop it. Mobilized people not just in Columbus, but in more than 450 other cities across the country. People of all ages, but especially young people, are mobilized by the horrific mass murders in Buffalo and Uvalde. These are the latest communities whose mention now is instantly associated with senseless carnage carried out with weapons of war.

At least one young person at the Columbus rally mentioned that while she’s too young to vote, she’s not too young to speak. And if it takes our nation’s youth shaming immovable, entrenched politicians by holding up a mirror to our abject failure to confront this national menace, they are prepared to do so.

“With unmistakable urgency and anger in her voice, 12-year-old Claudia Thomas issued a cry for help Saturday morning in front of about 200 people at the City Hall plaza in downtown Columbus,” The Republic’s Brian Blair reported.

“I am terrified,” Thomas said. “But there is nothing I can do about it. I can’t vote. … (But) you go out and vote. Vote for the people who care more about my life than their (gun sales) money.”

Consider for a moment Thomas’ life experience as a young American in 2022. Put your 12-year-old self in her shoes. She recounted to Blair that she participated in active shooter drills in school at age 6. This is the world they know, the world we are leaving to our children, our grandchildren.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan compromise bill in Congress is making headway, offering for the first time in more than a generation realistic hope that something, anything, might be done. The measure would, among other things, strengthen background checks before people age 18-21 can buy a gun, entice states to pass red-flag laws that could remove guns from dangerous people, and provide billions of dollars for mental health services.

These proposed steps are tiny, even for baby steps, but they are something. And at this point, anything is better than the intolerable status quo.

Our Congress owes it to our nation, especially our young people, to pass this legislation as soon as possible. Furthermore, our representatives and senators also must realize that the vast majority of Americans support much tougher gun restrictions.

But Claudia put it better than we can, recalling the horrific school shooting last month in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children younger than her and two teachers were massacred by a gunman with an AR-15-style rifle designed for military combat.

“There shouldn’t be a little girl who had to cover herself in her friend’s blood” and play dead, Thomas said, “just to stay alive. But until we have leaders who care more about children than gun lobby blood money, that is reality.”

Perhaps a child shall lead them.