Editor’s note: In the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, Max Tapera produced a video of himself speaking with gun control advocates. This video, which is embedded below, has received roughly 40,000 YouTube views as of this writing. What follows is his account of his experience making this video.
By Max Tapera
In the wake of the absolutely devastating tragedy which occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018, a nation of students and teachers united and organized school walkouts for seventeen minutes as a sign of respect for the children who had been lost. Others used the walkout as a way to protest the National Rifle Association (NRA) and call upon the government to pass stricter gun control legislation. Though these school protests made national news, few took the time to talk to those who maybe had a different perspective on the current gun laws and protecting the Second Amendment. It was almost as though there was no other perspective. Because of this lack of ideological diversity, I decided to go out and engage in open discussion.
Inspired by the widely popular conservative YouTube host, Steven Crowder, of Louder With Crowder, I went to my high school and set up a table, openly inviting those of a different opinion to come and try to change my position on guns in America in a segment coined by Mr. Steven Crowder as “I’m Pro Gun: Change My Mind”. My intent was to discuss our varying views on guns in America and the Second Amendment as it stands today along with the events in Parkland. I wished to discuss how as terrible a tragedy it was, there were many factors involved in the shooting as well as many individuals at fault, but contrary to popular belief, the NRA was not one of them. I wished to discuss the Sheriff of Broward County, Florida, Scott Israel, and how he allowed his department, along with the FBI, to ignore the warnings signs of a psychopath that led to the shooting. I wished to discuss the Broward County school resource officer who was forced to resign following the shooting because he was armed and on the campus while the shooting took place and he chose to do nothing. I wished to discuss the fact that four other Broward County officers arrived on the scene during the shooting and were told to stand down and await further instruction. But sadly, the few students who were willing to speak with me seemed interested in these issues.
During the course of the day we got a lot of honks and waves from cars passing by along with students and faculty staring, laughing, and taking pictures, but who strangely did not wish to participate in a discussion. And we had a few people who walked by cursing and yelling, and there was even a girl who posted a picture of me on her Instagram saying that I “dressed like a racist” when in my Van Heusen suit. But we did have a couple students ask for handshakes and to take some pictures, and then towards the end of all the commotion, we finally had some students who wished to engage.
The first student agreed that we should have a right to bear arms, but he came at it from an approach through the eyes of a self-proclaimed communist, arguing that citizens should have the right to bear arms in the case of “an impending revolution”. And since we agreed that citizens should have the right to bear arms, we went onto discuss his take on communism. He admitted it was played out, but he brought up the argument that real communism had not been tested yet and that every version of communism that had been tried strayed from the belief system. The student even called upon the Soviet Union’s “achieving a lot in terms of economic development” but struggled to answer me when I asked him, “At what cost? Because millions and millions of people were killed in the process.” But when he finally did answer, he claimed it wasn’t Stalin’s fault but the fault of the citizens who were protesting his tyrannical, communist regime. The student, surprisingly enough, had trouble answering my next question; “Is there any other country you would rather live in over America?” Answering after a long pause that it was a “hard question coming from a leftist point of view” and currently there is not an “unrevisionist, a completely socialist socioeconomic system that is in place.” And though we differed on many opinions, I had to give him props for his honesty answering the question and his understanding that as it currently stands, America is the best country to be a citizen. He went on to break down his interpretation of what socialism really is, and we went back and forth for a bit longer. Things did get interesting when we started to talk about class mobility as it stands now in America.
This particular student was under the impression that class mobility is down, though considering he is a self-confessed Bernie Sanders supporter I understand where he got his information. I then cited a study done by the Brooking’s Institute that found that you only have to do three things to move into the middle class in America; graduate high school, get a job ,and don’t get pregnant before your married. Of course, he immediately called this a “racist dog whistle,” saying that the study was used by racists and was obviously referring to black people (though ironically enough was done by a majorly left-leaning institution). I tried to explain that it had nothing to do with race and that the study applied to any American in the country, but he struggled to grasp the concept.
That conversation inspired a group of onlookers to engage in the conversation about being black in America and the hardships and obstacles that come with it, every now and again stopping to talk about guns with the occasional passerby. Though I barely got to talk about guns and the video was intensely scrutinized for my repetitive use of the word “like” and the music playing over the video, I still feel that progress was made and it was an enlightening experience to be able to reach across the aisle to discuss the hard topics in America today. And once again I have to give gratitude and appreciation to Mr. Steven Crowder or coming up with such a brilliant way to open the doors to a discussion in a time where so many wish to stay within their echo chamber.