As 21 families in Uvalde, Texas hold funerals for the 19 children and two adults who were killed in the shooting at Robb Elementary School last week, gun control advocates are grappling with the question of what it will take to stop gun violence, with some proposing that students and teachers hold the largest school walkout yet—one in which they would refuse to return to school until lawmakers pass far-reaching reforms.
With summer vacation approaching, Gal Beckerman wrote at The Atlantic Tuesday, “students should refuse to go back to school” in the fall without the passage of an assault weapons ban—a law which existed in the U.S. in the past and whose expiration correlated to a rise in mass shootings, according to researchers.
“They could create thousands of local committees supporting the strike and decide on what the national demand might be—say, an assault-weapon ban.”
While the proposal is absent from the reform package Democratic lawmakers have proposed in the wake of last week’s shooting, Beckerman wrote, “63% [of Americans] want an outright ban on assault weapons.”
“Moments of such misalignment, when the ideals of a critical mass clash with the rules that govern our collective lives, can also give rise to effective social movements,” he added.
Building on walkouts that have been held following mass shootings in recent years, Beckerman wrote, “the children and parents of our country need to take the summer to organize locally, build a set of national demands, and then refuse to go back to school in the fall until Congress does something.”
The Atlantic senior editor’s call follows a nationwide student walkout last week and a call by March for Our Lives , a goup formed by survivors of the February 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, for nationwide marches on June 11.
March for Our Lives led a nationwide 17-minute student walkout—one of the largest youth-led protests in U.S. history—a month after that shooting, helped pressure then-Republican Gov. Rick Scott to sign a bill raising the minimum age for gun purchases and extending the waiting period, and continues to mobilize young voters and gun control advocates.\
A co-founder of that group, David Hogg, suggested last week that students might want to take a page from the youth climate movement and stage weekly walkouts “until all kids and adults are safe in their schools and communities.”
Particularly after the coronavirus pandemic forced schools across the country to close, Beckerman wrote, it’s become clear that a sustained disruption to the education system would have a domino effect throughout the nation’s economy:
A walkout with enough students involved and taking place over days, not minutes, puts concrete pressure on officials, from the municipal level all the way up to Washington. When students aren’t in school, parents have difficulty getting to work. Suddenly understaffed services—hospitals, subways—suffer the consequences. Politicians and local officials have a mess on their hands—children falling behind in learning, parents overloaded—and a strong incentive to accede to a demand.
“This is a great idea,” tweeted entrepreneur Chris Richardson, adding that to the nation’s political leaders, “only actions that cause economic pain matter.”
Over the summer, Beckerman suggested, students, parents, and teachers should mobilize to prepare for a long-term school strike that would continue until Congress passes broadly popular gun control laws.
“The kids have more power than they know.”
“They could create thousands of local committees supporting the strike and decide on what the national demand might be—say, an assault-weapon ban,” he wrote. “They could figure out the mutual support and child care they would need to get through the days and maybe weeks it would take for Congress to act.”
“In the fall, high school students should refuse to go to school until Congress enacts a nationwide assault weapons ban,” author Joe Hill said in support of Beckerman’s proposal. “That’s a small and reasonable goal that could have meaningful results.”
“The kids have more power than they know,” he added.
The proposal appeared to garner support from local political leaders in one Arizona county.
“How can we expect them to walk into the firing line every day?” tweeted the Pima County Democratic Party.