After the tragedy in Parkland, many students began to advocate for harsher gun control, planning school walkouts in protest of the school shootings that have occurred. However, one of the parents of a Parkland victim called on students to “walk up, not out” in an effort to fight gun violence. He argued that walkouts would do little to actually solve the problem of school shootings, and that students could make an effort to befriend lonely classmates and make them feel as though they had a support system, they would not turn to violence. This idea has garnered very mixed reactions, with some students and adults supporting the idea, but most people condemning it.
Pro: Walkup Movement Is Poorly Thought Out but Means Well
by Natalie Murray ’18
I was lucky enough to participate in the student walkout in Washington D.C. on March 14, and would not have traded that experience for the world. However, seeing the government continue to do nothing despite having such a large outcry for action is certainly disappointing.
This could be why Ryan Petty, the father of a Parkland victim, asked students to walk “up” to lonely students, rather than “out” to large protests. When so many people are using their voices and Congress seems to be putting on noise-cancelling headphones, it’s natural for people to want a different solution to the problem.
Unfortunately, the walkup movement is not it. Petty clearly meant well when he suggested the idea, but it comes off as insensitive and seems ineffectual.
For starters, offering “be nice to people!” as an alternative to protesting is offensive to the students who have worked so hard to organize such a massive movement. It is estimated that half a million students are in D.C. this weekend for the March for Our Lives, and there are marches taking place all over the country and the world. These walkouts are not a mere excuse for students to skip class; these students are serious about their cause and must be treated as more than just schoolchildren, especially when displaying the level of sophistication and maturity to plan a national movement and especially in the face of such strong adversaries.
Now, had Petty suggested the walkups as an addition to walkouts, his idea may have been slightly better received. Students should of course try to be more kind and more inclusive to others – but they should absolutely not (and hopefully wouldn’t) do so because they are concerned that the person might become a school shooter.
For starters, that’s putting both students in an awkward and potentially dangerous situation. Anyone who has even vaguely considered shooting up their school is probably not the kind of person who wants companionship. Friendships are a two-way street, and especially in high school, when students are able to recognize social signals, it is at least partially up to the lonely person to make friends; they should at the very least seem as if they want a friend. But people who want to shoot up schools are not going to be sending off the social cues that show other students that they want friends, and high school students who can read body language are not going to blatantly ignore clear, defined social signals to approach a lonely stranger.
All in all, walking up is a nice thought. Middle and high school can be immensely difficult, especially in terms of social scenes, so we should make a better effort to befriend people who are lonely – but not in the name of preventing gun violence. So continue to protest, walk out, and speak your minds. Fight for what you believe in. But maybe try to make a new friend along the way.
Con: Walking Up Doesn’t Work
by Sabrina Rickert ’19
Ryan Petty, father of a student who was shot and killed in the Parkland High School shooting, started a movement for students to walk up, not walk out. A “walk up” is when the student walks up to a student who is sitting alone to prevent mental health issues, instead of walking out to get gun control to prevent the shootings in the first place. What Petty doesn’t understand is the fact that students have to walk out to make a change in the moment. If students start having people to sit with at lunch, it’s not going to change their plan if they have one to commit a shooting.
We still need gun control, we still need to put background checks on people who might have mental health conditions, we need to make guns that are used in massacres like the AR-15 illegal. If we do all this, we as students won’t have to worry as much about school shootings. In theory, it would be great if we could be nice to students and all of a sudden their mental illness was gone and they didn’t have an urge to kill. But even if we tell students to be nice they’re not going to be nice. The solution to the problem would not be changing the social environment of teenagers because that’s extremely unrealistic.
What’s not going to change such a person with a mental illness is when others start walking up and being strangely nice. What could actually help is if schools spotted signs in students before they brought a gun to school and tried to get them real help.