Many high school students threatened to stage school walkouts to protest guns after the 14 February shooting massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
As is typical with these “spontaneous” nationwide efforts, there was social media buzz (complete with maps and polished video appeals). Snapchat seems to have been in the lineup to get featured last week when many of the walkouts were occurring.
Most of the walkouts went off without creating local disturbances (at least none beyond threats of suspension from school authorities).
But in Stockton, California, some students participating in the walkouts around town on Friday, 23 February, decided to fight gun laws with violence.
Students at Stagg, Edison, Chavez, Lincoln and Village Oak high schools were walking along streets, and Stockton police said some students threw rocks and damaged both police and citizen vehicles.
Five arrests were made, including charges of battery on an officer, resisting arrest, taking an officer’s baton and vandalizing vehicles, including patrol vehicles, Stockton police said.
The violence from students went beyond rock-throwing and attacking vehicles, however. At one location, apparently where the school had been locked down to prevent the walkout, students initiated a physical altercation with a police officer.
During one incident, an officer approached a group of students attempting to leave a school by jumping a fence. When the officer approached the students, police said they fought with the officer and took his baton.
The officer was patrolling an area of the high school while it was placed on lockdown. A person who saw the incident take place came to the officer’s aid until more officers arrived, police said.
Although its crime record has improved slightly in the last few years, Stockton has perennially been one of the highest-crime-rate cities in the nation. The eruption of violent disorder when high school students walked out certainly clarifies why at least one school would be on lockdown to prevent students from leaving the campus during the day.
There are more complex things to say about this, to be sure. But the simplest points are profound enough. Every K-12 school in California, as in the rest of America, is a gun-free zone. Yet students can be found in them having a propensity to violence.
“Protesting ‘gun violence'” isn’t reliably about honestly protesting violence. Protests by teenagers are not ipso facto evidence of goodhearted desires or intentions. Being woke is often about having an untethered emotional reaction, and just as often about following the crowd. Sometimes it’s mainly about leaving the classroom for a day to do something more exciting.
Our official, political culture of warehousing young people from at-risk backgrounds and telling them incessantly that “haters” hate them doesn’t have the record of success or the moral standing to preach to anyone about anything. Tragically, some of the students in Stockton are at the highest risk in the nation of being killed before they’re 25, even if it’s not in a mass shooting, or even if it’s not by shooting at all. Their killers, like the killer in Parkland, will probably be their classmates.
That’s because violence starts in the human heart, not at the trigger of a gun.