Hundreds of high school and middle school students gather in front of the White House in support of gun control in the wake of Florida shooting. Photo by Oliver Doulery

Much commentary has been made regarding the Parkland, Florida school shooting. Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated individuals all have an opinion on the tragedy and their opinions vary wildly. Some people are calling for concealed carry by teachers; others, particularly Parkland High students, are calling for harsher gun control laws.

A video of a speech given by Emma Gonzalez, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and survivor of the shooting, recently went viral. In the video, she criticizes lawmakers who accept money from the National Rifle Association and criticizes them for the sending of “thoughts and prayers” rather than policy changes which could make it more difficult to obtain guns.

Responses to her speech have been mixed. Many adults support Gonzalez and children like herself using their voices to call attention to an issue which has immediately affected them. Some are not so appreciative.

Political commentator Dinesh D’Souza lambasted the students over Twitter, saying, “How interesting to hear students who can’t support themselves for one day giving us lectures about American social policy.” He responded to news of Florida legislators’ rejection to a bill to ban assault rifles with the words, “Adults 1, kids 0” and a photograph of the survivors watching as the bill is voted down, “Worst news since their parents told them to get summer jobs.”

D’Souza is not the only adult dissatisfied with the survivors’ response. Radio host Rush Limbaugh claimed that the survivors were being used by the left to help take away gun rights. In addition, he called for concealed carry in schools as a potential solution to the problem of gun violence.

Even normal U.S. citizens are fighting the survivors. “Forgive me for losing sympathy for the victims of the #ParklandSchoolShooting . They are turning Parkland into a liberal circus against the #2ndAmendment rights of the people. Students and teachers aren’t mourning they’re on a tirade for #guncontrol !” one tweet from user seanbianca reads.

The general idea appears to be this: survivors of the Parkland shooting need to stay quiet about their experiences and ideas, and if they speak up, it is liberal propaganda. But why is that?

Adults complain that teenagers spend too much time on social media. Gonzalez and her fellow survivors have used other means to spread their message, speaking directly to news sources. “Kids these days” are called lazy, but the survivors are busy planning a demonstration for March 24. Adults complain that teenagers are uninformed but there can be few life experiences more informative than living through a school shooting.

There are two major factors at play here. The first is ageism. Ageism is prejudice based on a person’s age. Adults often dismiss teenagers as inexperienced and uninformed due to age, while a teenager may have studied a subject more in-depth than an adult may have. This operates in more directions than one, as someone younger may dismiss someone older as “behind on the times” or disconnected from reality rather than acknowledging their experience.

Ageism is simply one tool used to discredit those who believe differently. The other issue is partisanship. As a culture, we are very reluctant to listen to the beliefs of those who disagree with us even though most everyone has valuable insight to offer based on their own life experiences.

The Parkland survivors should give our nation hope for a new generation who cares deeply about issues which will affect our lives. Instead, we have allowed our own prejudices to deepen the chasm between the left and right. These survivors deserve our support and support should not be a partisan issue.