After the horrific Parkland shooting that claimed the lives of 17 young people, high school students across the US are standing up to the arms industry and the politicians who do their bidding. Calls for gun reform, biting criticism of politicians in the pocket of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and planned school walkouts are proof that the new generation is sick of the torrent of mass shootings seen in recent years, and the blatant corruption of US politicians. Mass shootings like this are only the tip of the iceberg of America’s extremely high violent crime rates.

Socialists are opposed to the agenda of the arms industry and the right-wing gun lobby. The NRA, in reality, is a corporate lobbying group. Despite its claims to protect people’s gun rights, the NRA supported racist legislation which prevented black people from accessing guns during the civil rights revolt.

While there can be legitimate reasons why people wish to own guns, Socialist Alternative – the Socialist Party’s US sister group – supports reasonable limits on the type of firearms available, calls for mandatory background checks and restrictions on people with a history of violence and threats of violence accessing guns. This is clearly in the interests of the American people. However, socialists also reject the idea that the state has the right to or can be trusted with a monopoly on access to arms.

The ongoing effort of the US state to militarise the police force poses a threat to ordinary people. In recent years, protesters against police brutality have been attacked with tear gas, assault weapons and armoured vehicles at Ferguson and Baltimore. Given the US state’s history of attacks on unions, the civil rights movement and recent examples of state violence against innocent black people, it’s clear that the state is not neutral in the battle between the 1% and the 99%

Gun control measures alone will not solve the problem of violent crime. Poverty and alienation, along with an establishment which consistently promotes right-wing individualism, have created an often uncaring society where collective solidarity is undermined. The shooter in Parkland, as many school shooters before him, was identified by friends, family, teachers and child welfare agencies as being someone who needed help from an early age, help he never received. Violent crime and the social ills in which it breeds can only be fundamentally tackled by a movement which challenges the rotten capitalist system itself.

By Christopher Stewart