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We’re having the wrong conversation about gun control

The aftermath of the Parkland school shooting has brought about a new wave of activism with the student-led March For Our Lives protest movement. This time it feels different, as the outrage of the teenage survivors has been thrown into the limelight.

Is this the moment when we change the way we talk about guns in America?

Last weekend, approximately 1.2 million people marched in favor of gun control legislation around the U.S., according to early tallies. In Washington D.C., the estimates ranged from 200,000 to 800,000. These high ranges would make March for Our Lives the biggest youth protest since the Vietnam era.

Gun control is popular in the United States. Around 69 percent of Americans believe in common sense gun control measures. However, these policies have failed to pass as legislation. For gun control advocates, the March for Our Lives movement brings a new level of intensity and urgency to the issue.

Gun control has always been an incendiary topic, especially in the United States. Shootings are always followed by a string of debates between the pro-gun control and pro-gun camps.

The right debases conversations away from establishing sensible gun control with trite arguments. Over time, we have turned to this cycle of arguing and sending “thoughts and prayers” after every shooting instead of engaging in a national conversation. This turns the debate into toxic and destructive rhetoric. Online and real-life conversations are permeated with phrases such as:

“Guns don’t kill people, people do.”

“These marches accomplish nothing.”

“Guns don’t pull the trigger by themselves. A person is involved in that equation.”

Guns, especially assault rifles like the AR-15 used by the Parkland shooter, are tools intended to kill high numbers in short time spans. The only way to curb school shootings is to prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands. People do not need assault rifles to feel safe, especially when the lives of innocent children are on the line.

The regulation of arms of this caliber would make it more difficult for dangerous people to have access to them.

We need to change the way we talk about gun control. Instead of falling back into petty party rhetoric, we should engage in productive dialogue. It’s more important to solve this issue once and for all, but the conversation can only be productive if both parties are interested in finding solutions.

Take, for example, the National Rifle Association, which uses every shooting as a way to scare people into thinking they need to buy a gun while discouraging sensible gun reform by convincing people they’re the only thing standing in the way of tyranny. It frames itself as a public interest group like the ACLU or the NAACP, when in fact it is a lobbying group for gun manufacturers.

Their main goal is to protect the interest of gun manufacturers, which is to sell more guns. They receive millions of dollars from gun companies through corporate partnerships and gun advertisements. Yet they continue to usurp the gun control debate in the national stage when they send their spokespersons to debate with survivors of shootings. Anytime they debate these survivors, they do it to deflect attention on behalf of the gun industry.

The NRA shifts the focus from the product, and millions of people fall for their tactics. Pushing ideas like “guns don’t kill people, people do” is neither sensible nor a rational line of argument. Instead they are a way to continue to divide and confuse the public until they lose sight of what is truly important: solving the public health issue of school shootings.

We shouldn’t allow a lobbying group to be the representatives of law abiding citizens who have a right to own guns. The NRA does not care about the Second Amendment or about protecting against tyranny. All it cares about is gun manufacturers, not murdered children.

We should stand up to organizations like the NRA, to people who peddle misinformation and engage in toxic comments to poison the gun control debate, and focus instead on agreeing to find a solution.

Gun policy is often complicated and deserves a thorough conversation, but that can only happen if both sides engage in a thoughtful and meaningful conversation. We can come closer to an agreement that makes schools safe again.

Opinion columnist Janet Miranda is a marketing junior and can be reached at [email protected].

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