The Students Walked. The Students Learned. What, Now?

ALPERN AT LARGE--I am NOT a fan of guns in the wrong hands (including poorly-trained teachers), and I am NOT a fan of weapons normally used for self-defense turned into weapons able to kill defenseless children.  

But I am also NOT a fan of those who don't know much about guns, mental health and the Constitution pretending that they are experts when, in fact, they are merely political grandstanders.

I am also NOT a fan of using poorly-educated and impressionable children as political props and avoiding what could have, and should have, been a wonderful teaching moment:

1) Our nation has way too many guns in the wrong hands...that's more than just a widely-held opinion. Based on the number of children (particularly in large urban venues) being killed on a daily basis, it's factual that too many guns are being used by the wrong people, for the wrong purposes.

Did the students have a chance to learn about, and weigh in on, ALL the gun-related deaths, and how they have gone up or down based on gun control laws, background checks, etc.?  And if those laws are being ENFORCED?

2) Our nation has way too many young individuals, mostly men in their teens and twenties, whose hormones, confusion, and mental status make them ticking time bombs...that's more than just a widely-held opinion.  Based on the number of shooting sprees and killing zones we've seen occur since Columbine, it's factual that we've got a crisis in our nation.

Did the students have a chance to learn about, and weigh in on, ALL the various ways that wannabe killers can convert weapons into more dangerous killing machines, if they're really motivated? So while bump stocks and underage sales of high-powered guns to youths can and should be prohibited, will that really stop future killings?

3) Our nation has way too many roadblocks to reporting and confronting killers BEFORE they blow and cause the deaths of others...that's more than just a widely-held opinion.  Based on the number of reports of killers who DID have ample warnings of mental and emotional decompensation prior to resorting to violence, it's factual that we don't have the will and ability to prevent the violence.

Did the students have a chance to learn about, and weigh in on, how to report a suspected killer without fear of retribution?  Did the students learn about, and weigh in on, the need to befriend those who are being bullied, and the need to recognize antisocial behavior?

So...what did the students learn?

1) The NRA is probably too rigid in its approach to gun sales and the Second Amendment, but do those screaming about guns know what the hell they're talking about when it comes to automatic weapons, semi-automatic weapons, and gun safety?  

2) Did the students learn how absolutely preventable the Florida deaths were?  That the police and FBI did nothing to disarm and properly take action against the shooter?  That the police left the students in the school alone to die when lives could have been saved?  

3) Are the students and their parents allowed to ask whether this student protest is diverting attention away from the complete failure of law enforcement to do its job and prevent this monstrosity from ever happening?

4) Do the students know that they might have been used as political props, and were they allowed to speak up for all sides of this issue, instead of being only lectured to, and hold signs for, one aspect of this very complicated and problematic crisis facing our society?

5) Most importantly, the two KEY QUESTIONS:   

a)Why was this not held AFTER school

b)How much will this nationwide protest, even if gun control laws are wisely implemented, REALLY prevent another disaster like we saw in Florida?

Civic engagement, sensible gun control laws, and the need for students to weigh in and play a role in their society are all excellent goals for our civilization to champion.  

But children being used as political props, for politicians and political wannabes to make points? Not a good teaching moment for anyone save for those who want political control to promote and divert the thoughts of society in a contrived direction.

It is hoped that the students had a chance, or will have a chance, to debate ALL sides of the gun/mental health/law enforcement conundrum that led to the utterly-avoidable disaster in a Florida high school.

Otherwise, when they grow up, some of the students might realize that they were used by adults who had anything BUT their best interests at heart.  And they will learn ... what, now?


(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud father and husband to two cherished children and a wonderful wife. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.