March For Our Lives is the first time we’ve seen a major, sustained movement for change in America’s gun laws and culture. And it is revealing all of the worst elements of gun culture internationally.
The gun problem in the USA is something which would have been interfered with had it been any other nation – lesser incidents have warranted international involvement in other countries. America is privileged in that after all of the gun deaths, they have continually been allowed to maintain control over their own nation’s weaponry legislation. Where this privilege fails them, however, is in domestic politicians being paid off by the NRA.
Now, Australia is regularly used as the example of well-functioning gun laws, and, of course, our National Firearms Agreement (NFA) is a highly appropriate reaction to the horrors caused by a mass shooting. However, Australians need to be aware that our gun laws are not as strong as they are purported to be, with not a single state or territory legislating in complete accordance with the NFA. Gun theft is a rising issue (rates of theft doubled between 2007-2017), and only twelve percent of guns stolen from the households of licensed gun owners are returned. The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party policies, according to their federal website, include reviewing the already disobeyed NFA, promote firearm manufacturers and suppliers for both domestic and government use, and remove and oppose federal regulation on firearm imports and ownership. And Australians seem to be losing sight of exactly why these laws are here. We seem to be forgetting the 35 people who lost their lives, and the innumerable more whose lives would never be the same, from the 23 wounded to families, to locals, to an entire nation.
Gun culture has flown under the radar in many instances of these shootings, due to lack of consistent resistance to the gun lobbyists. As March For Our Lives gained and sustained traction, within America and internationally, both the sensible and the toxic of gun culture have been revealed. Toxic gun culture has caused shooting survivors to be defamed and sent death threats, as well as trolled in a variety of ways. It is not just America which has revealed its toxicity around the March For Our Lives movement, I can personally say, having co-organised a rally in Melbourne, Australia and wound up with a colourful variety of comments on the event’s Facebook page. While no one has let this stand in the way of the movement, given the nature of March For Our Lives’ goals, the question does become whether it is only a matter of time before the toxicity we’re fighting comes around to bite us (again, in the survivors’ cases), as has historically been the case for activists who stood against a toxic dominant culture.
But, of course, even with all its faults, social media is still our most reliable way of promoting activism. Official international and domestic media outlets are very easily distracted from issues such as these, and distraction tactics are the name of the political game. For example, Trump bombing Syria to overshadow media interest in the FBI raid on his lawyer’s offices. Or Greg Hunt changing the subject to freedom of speech when asked to discuss gay conversion therapy. Fortunately, (or unfortunately, depending on where you stand), we are the generation of social media. Youth movements are stronger than ever because we’re all on the internet, which is where we need to be. Because mainstream media might not think we’re worth a story, but social media has a much lower bar. And, if we’re looking for a youth audience, a much larger audience. Mainstream media is losing a youth audience, just as much because of lack of interest as because of lack of interesting content. It is at the point in America where there is a shooting for almost every day and most of them don’t even make the national or international news. Because one kid being shot is much less important to them than Donald Trump’s most recent tweet because this level of violence is day to day but the reality show of Trump’s White House is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
March For Our Lives is the first time we’ve seen a gun control movement stand for so long, despite media ignorance, despite death threats, despite trolling. March For Our Lives is doing a job that should’ve been done a long time ago, but they’re the only ones who have had the strength, and the international access, to maintain this. March For Our Lives is internationally important because when someone says they’re going to America, the response is “don’t get shot”. March For Our Lives is internationally important because youth across the world are watching people their age die, and people their age lose friends, and people their age learning to stand and own their place as the future, living in the present. March For Our Lives is internationally important because it is proving to our future that they can make change, even while we’re still living in the present.