There is nothing more abhorrent than the killing of children. More heartbreaking is when the violence is perpetrated by other children. News continues to spread of the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida on February 14, which took the lives of 17 students and staff. Parents, students, and politicians are engaging in a debate about what to do to solve the endemic problem.

Leading the response after the most recent tragedy are the surviving students of the Florida high school shooting. Their rallying cry is #NeverAgain, and they are headed for the state capitol today determined to be heard by lawmakers.

Their platform is school safety and Gun Control. Conversations with policymakers are scheduled for Wednesday.

Utilizing the tools of social and news media, the intrepid students are making their voices heard and gaining support in their cause. Today, Florida Governor Rick Scott will be holding live-streamed meetings with school administrators, law enforcement, teachers, and mental health experts about safety and gun control. Another aspect of the issue that will be addressed is how to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.

A mental health issue

Over the last decade, mass shootings have plagued schools and even churches across the United States. In every case, the conversation has resounded about what to do, both in how to prevent these atrocities and how to heal in their aftermath.

Attention is directed to mental illness as the problem underlying mass shootings. Attorney General Jeff Sessions proposes to coordinate efforts between the Department of Justice and other federal agencies to study how mental illness, violence, and criminal behavior relate to one another. The focus will be on how to prevent shootings in the first place.

In the case of Nikolas Cruz, there were signs of mental instability prior to the shooting. A Florida Department of Children and Families report noted self-destructive behavior such as cutting. It was also documented that Cruz suffered from depression, autism, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. He allegedly displayed hate symbols, racial slurs, and had communicated plans to buy a gun.

A predicament facing such cases is the unpredictability of behavior, mixed with the formal processes for remediation and containment. A person demonstrating unstable behaviors typically must have perpetrated an assault or crime before they can be contained. In the meantime, while some might prove to be harmless, some go on to enact violence against themselves or others. In either case, it is difficult to determine what a person will do and therefore extremely difficult to try and prevent them.

The gun control stalemate

Another aspect of the conversation focuses on gun control and everyday gun violence. Dr. Jonathan Metzl, director of the Center for Medicine, Health, and Society at Vanderbilt University points toward ending gun violence as the answer.

He also warns against the stigmatization of the mentally ill in regard to behaviors that could be attributed to the availability of guns.

Gun control is a divisive issue in the United States. Without access to guns, it would logically be hard for mass shootings to invade the safety of our students. Of course, it is not just making guns more difficult to obtain that might stem the tide of violence, but it would require regulation of the guns that are already in the hands of the public. Such a heated issue, with impassioned advocates for and against gun control, will not be easily settled.

A generation for change

As the Florida students and the supporters of their movement present arguments, no doubt the country will be listening.

Their challenge lies not in being heard, but in affecting change in a system that has been deadlocked over the issue of gun control. As the up-and-coming generation of leaders, we can hope that the strength of their movement will permeate the existing power structure and succeed in making schools, and even the United States, a safer place for us all.