After a mass shooter opened fire, killing 17 of their classmates and wounding many others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the surviving students ignited a movement to finally address America's gun violence problem. Now, they've set their sights on shaping the 2020 presidential race, with the announcement of a sweeping policy proposal to re-make gun laws and enforcement, that they hope candidates — including President Trump — will consider.
After the recent shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signalled that Congress may finally begin serious discussions about background checks and "red flag" laws that allow police to temporarily take firearms from those deemed a danger to themselves or others, when Congress returns in September, NPR reports. But the March For Our Lives movement has even bigger plans.
It calls for creating a national licensing and gun registry, an assault weapons and high-capacity magazine ban, a mandatory gun buyback program, and the creation of a new position, a "national director of gun violence prevention." The idea is this person would report directly to the president to oversee the federal efforts to curb gun violence, which currently steals the lives of 100 Americans every day.
With the creation of this new office would come increased funding to a variety of federal agencies to address the problem head on. "The National Director of GVP’s Day One priority: allocate — as a down payment — $250 million of annual funding to the CDC/HHS/DOJ to research how to best understand and address gun violence," the plan reads. More money would be directed towards community-based prevention programs that focus on the various types of gun violence, be it domestic violence or suicide prevention programs.
Crucially, the plan also calls for making it more difficult to buy guns with proposals to raise the minimum age of purchase from 18 to 21, and to create an intensive licensing system that would be overseen by a federal agency. It would require in-person interviews and a 10-day waiting period before a person could access a gun.
The proposal is ambitious, and likely to face fierce opposition. While the proposal contains some plans similar to those backed by 2020 Democratic candidates, it goes further as a holistic approach. Even less ambitious ideas, like those to close loopholes for gun sales and to revive an assault weapons ban, have failed again and again, thanks to opposition from gun owners and the powerful gun lobby.
The National Rifle Association opposes the plan: "The gun-control community is finally being marginally honest about their true wish list. The simple fact remains their proposals and ideas are out of the mainstream, and most people will understand their real intent goes beyond what they publicly state,” NRA spokesperson Amy Hunter told The Washington Post.
But the March For Our Lives leaders see this as necessary to strengthen the current patchwork of state laws and move the needle once and for all on what they see as an epidemic of gun violence.
“We are changing the conversation around gun violence itself because we don’t want the narrative to come from people who haven’t experienced it — to come from people who benefit from the sale of guns. We want the narrative to come from people who understand it from its very root,” Tyah-Amoy Roberts, a Parkland survivor who is on the March for Our Lives board of directors, told The Washington Post.
March for Our Lives is counting on the proposal to mobilise young voters around the issue. Over the past year, the group has been focused on voter registration and building grassroots support with more than 100 chapters across the country.
Beto O-Rourke, the Democratic candidate for President from El Paso, TX, has already signalled his support for the plan in a tweet. "Following the lead of the students marching for their lives, and for all of ours, we will end this epidemic," he wrote. "I support their Peace Plan For A Safer America — and I call on everyone else in this race to do the same."