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U.S. students make a reasonable plea for their lives

Bridgehampton School students Caleigh Hochstedler, 16, left; Jaden

Bridgehampton School students Caleigh Hochstedler, 16, left; Jaden Campbell, 15, center; and Olivia Cassone, 15, attend a ceremony in Bridgehamton for the Florida school shooting victims on Wednesday. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

The nation’s schoolchildren are pleading with us to take care of them. They are asking not be massacred at school, or anywhere.

Thousands of students across Long Island and across the country walked out of classes and schools Wednesday morning in a grass-roots protest of gun violence. In Baldwin, for example, where the school administration was supportive, students read the names of the 17 students and staff shot to death at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. But in some other districts, students and teachers face disciplinary action; disproportionate punishments should be reconsidered.

Raising a voice in protest is a political right, but often it involves negative consequences, especially if rules are broken or authorities disagree with those views. That, too, is a lesson well learned. Doing what seems right is not without costs.

For years, as mass killings have rocked campuses and communities in Columbine and Newtown, adults have done practically nothing. Yet, clearly there are legal changes that might have helped.

Were it harder for mentally unbalanced people to buy weapons, Nikolas Cruz, 19, might have been stopped in Parkland. Were it illegal for 19-year-olds to buy weapons, Cruz might have been stopped. Were it illegal to buy such powerful weapons, Cruz’s spree might have been less deadly. But after every incident, sensible gun regulations have been beaten back by the National Rifle Association and the politicians who do its bidding. They wait it out.

This time, it feels different. The generation that soon will be raising its own children wants change. If the emboldened students and their supporters keep up the fight, the NRA cannot wait them out. Soon enough, if our children cannot persuade us to give them a safer, better nation, they will make one for themselves.