Parkland students offer 7 great ideas about gun control — plus a ridiculous one.

In the lead-up to the March for Our Lives, The Guardian turned its pages over to the editors of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School's student paper.

Eagle Eye staff wrote or edited more than a dozen stories on the British media outlet's U.S. website, complete with a number of great on-the-ground reports from the march itself. It was a really great idea, giving a large platform to some budding young journalists, and it was largely well-received.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Emma Gonzalez stands with other students during the Washington, D.C., March for Our Lives. Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images.


One story did inspire a bit of controversy: "Our manifesto to fix America's gun laws" included a few clumsy goals mixed in with the good.

First, there's the good: Eagle Eye editors propose banning semi-automatic weapons that can fire high-velocity rounds, writing, "Civilians shouldn’t have access to the same weapons that soldiers do. That’s a gross misuse of the second amendment." Presumably, the students are referring to a renewed ban on so-called assault weapons, something that a recent Quinnipiac poll found was supported by around 67% of Americans.

They also call for a ban on bump stocks; the creation of a database for gun sales and elimination of background-check loopholes; a repeal of the Dickey Amendment, which prevents the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from conducting any research that results in a recommendation for more gun restrictions; and for the government to raise the purchase age requirement to 21.

Then there's the not-so-good: "Dedicate more funds to mental health research and professionals," reads one of the recommendations, noting, "Many of those who commit mass shootings suffer from [PTSD, depression, and other debilitating mental illnesses]."

The trouble with that recommendation isn't in the actual policy itself — it's true that increased funding for mental health research and professionals would be helpful, generally — but in its justification.

As it turns out, individuals with mental illness are actually less likely than those without mental illness to carry out a gun-related homicide. Where mental illness does play a big role in gun deaths is suicide. So by all means, we should dedicate those funds to mental health programs, just not for the reasons these students are suggesting.

Millions of people around the country attended March for Our Lives rallies on March 24, 2018. Photo by Shannon Finney/Getty Images.

Another less-than-ideal agenda item is a call to increase funding for school security. Marjory Stoneman Douglas had one armed school resource officer on campus the day of the shooting. Can one officer protect 3,000 students? Probably not. Is the answer to fill halls with armed guards and officers? Also probably not.

Yes, a school resource officer did engage with the gunman in the recent school shooting in Maryland (which ultimately ended in the student's death by a self-inflicted gunshot). That officer's action is commendable, but there are unintended consequences of merging our schools with the police state: Time and again, school resource officers have been caught getting physically violent with students — especially students of color.

One idea in particular is worth another look: Allowing mental health providers to more freely speak with law enforcement about patients.

This may sound like a good idea, but it's actually a call to relax privacy laws and likely will just make the entire situation a whole lot worse. It is worth considering the students' context here, however:

"As seen in the tragedy at our school, poor communication between mental healthcare providers and law enforcement may have contributed to a disturbed person with murderous tendencies and intentions entering a school and gunning down 17 people in cold blood.

We must improve this channel of communication. To do so, privacy laws should be amended. That will allow us to prevent people who are a danger to themselves or to others from purchasing firearms. That could help prevent tragedies such as the Parkland massacre."

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School staff members return to school on Feb. 23 after the shooting. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

To be sure, most people who've been following the story coming out of Parkland will be able to agree that the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, fell through the law enforcement cracks. There were warning signs, but the real issue wasn't that law enforcement didn't know; it was that after school guidance counselor tried to have him involuntarily committed in 2016, a state agency determined that his "final level of risk is low."

Basically, everyone involved was human — but still in touch with each other. That's because the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) already allows health providers to communicate with law enforcement if they believe there is a "serious and imminent threat of harm to self or others."

In fact, under HIPAA, providers have a duty to notify law enforcement in those situations. Further loosening those rules will only discourage people from seek help they need.

Also, law enforcement has an extremely sketchy history when it comes to responding to calls involving mental illness. A 2015 report found that nearly 1 in 4 fatal police encounters involved someone with mental illness, making mentally ill people an estimated 16 times more likely to be shot by police compared with the rest of the population — in part because not enough police officers are trained to deal with the mentally ill.

The general scope of the Parkland students' goals appear well-intentioned and actually within reach. Still, it's worth considering a few unintended consequences.

This is the starting point of a discussion, and the world is better because these students are speaking up for what they believe in. They may not get it totally right 100% of the time, and that's OK.

People attend the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

Update 4/3/2018: This post was edited to clarify the detail that the Maryland school resource officer was later determined not to have taken down the armed student but that he had confronted him before the student took his own life.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

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