Tuesday, March 20th, 2018 @ 5:30AM
On Saturday, March 24, shortly after social workers will have gathered on the Hill this week for our Student Advocacy Day and our Social Work Day on the Hill events, thousands of America’s young citizens will make their way to the nation’s capital for an event they have dubbed, The March for Our Lives. They intend to make their voices and their demands heard by a President and a Congress who for all intents and purposes are controlled by the National Rifle Association. Some of these young people were in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day, February 14, when a deranged Nikolas Cruz unleashed the lethal firepower of his AR-15 assault rifle on defenseless students, teachers, and administrators, killing 14 students and three school employees.
Those who survived are not certain if they were blessed or cursed. Certainly, they are happy to be alive, but they will spend the rest of their lives with the trauma of losing classmates and friends in a bloody encounter. They will wonder why they escaped and the others did not. It is called survivor’s guilt and is linked to post-traumatic syndrome disorder. They will need help to deal with their anxiety and suffering. Parents will experience the trauma of losing a child. All of this because some Americans feel they have a right to own and use arms made for warfare.
When our social work students go to the Hill today to visit various congressional offices in the House and the Senate, one of the bills they will be advocating for is H.R. 5087—the Assault Weapons Ban of 2018 which, if passed, will “amend the federal criminal code to make it a crime to knowingly import, sell, manufacture, transfer, or possess a semiautomatic assault weapon (SAW) or large capacity ammunition feeding device (LCAFD).” The bill was introduced in the House on February 26 by Rep. David Cicilline, congressman for the First Congressional District in Rhode Island, 12 days after the Parkland shooting. The bill has 173 co-sponsors, all Democrats. All but 14 of the House Democrats have signed on.
They will also be advocating for the Senate version of the bill, S.2095—the Assault Weapons Ban of 2017—introduced in November 2017 by California’s U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein. The bill has 29 co-sponsors, all Democrats with the exception of independent Sen. Bernie Sanders. The bill’s language is identical to the House companion bill. Neither bill has a chance of passage as long as Republicans control the Congress and the NRA maintains its stranglehold on the Party of Lincoln. Republicans will not let either bill out committee.
Given the fact that Republicans have all but capitulated to the disgraceful leadership of President Donald Trump by choosing to remain silent in the wake of his bullying, lying, and otherwise despicable behavior, they have decided to sink or swim with their decadent leader. Many have jumped ship and decided not to run for re-election out of fears of facing retribution from voters or the President. The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal generic congressional poll has Democrats up by 10 percentage points. While it may be too soon for Democrats to start thinking about which committees they would like to chair, it is obvious that changes are coming soon.
Somehow this feels different. Somehow you really believe those young Americans in Florida and elsewhere in the United States who took to the streets in protest this week are committed and will not go away. Somehow you believe this is not another Occupy Wall Street moment, but that like the #MeToo movement, this new development will be transformative. It has happened before when young people were the difference makers. In the 1960s during the Civil Rights movement, things changed dramatically when children took to the streets and the authorities started locking them up in jails.
Young social workers can play a significant role in eradicating the toxic environment that has engulfed our nation like a plague. They can be the catalysts who can help to energize young voters to register and go to the polls. Social workers possess the knowledge and skills so desperately needed to reshape the political arena. It doesn’t always take a singular gifted leader to show the way. It takes a handful of committed people who understand that their futures hang in the balance.