The news is being dominated at the moment by the tragic events in Parkland, USA, and the continued fall out. Student survivors are desperate to have their voices heard, begging their government to listen to them on gun control and to understand their point of view that the lives of their friends could have been saved if a nineteen year old was denied the right to own a gun. The debate rages on about what can be done to stop these senseless mass shootings and whether these teenagers are wise enough to be getting involved in such a heavily politicised issue, but is it time to extend political responsibilities to young people?
Here in the UK, the idea of a school shooting is unthinkable, after the first time, the government made it difficult to own firearms. The idea that schoolchildren speak more sense than the president, well… That’s not such a difficult concept to grasp. But if we’re in agreement that these young people are speaking sensibly, that they deserve to put their point of view forward, that it is right that they don’t want to have to go through something like this again, then why are we so against the idea of allowing young people the chance to make changes?
According to official figures, 1.5 million people in the UK, aged between 16 and 17, are working, paying taxes and contributing to society and yet, they aren’t deemed mature enough to have a say in how those taxes are spent and what rights they would like as workers. After the last general election, when younger people turned out in their droves to vote in a move that shocked politicians, the question of whether or not the voting age should be lowered returned.
Back in November, MPs debated the issue in parliament, with Labour, the Green Party, the Liberal Democrats, SNP and Plaid Cymru in support, but crucially, the Conservatives were against the idea. At the moment, 16 and 17 year olds have been allowed to vote in local and Scottish elections since 2015 and the Welsh Assembly has been consulting on changes to elections, including extending the voting age. Can England really continue to deny young people the vote when its neighbours are making these changes?
With what’s happening in America with students staging mass walk outs to get their voices heard and taking on their representatives on this issue, is it time that youths across the world should have the chance to be more involved in decision making? Should we be lowering the voting age?