Students-turned-activists fight back against gun violence in the United States
Yet another devastating mass shooting rocked the United States on Feb. 14. This time, it occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Seventeen lives were lost that day. Students who survived the school shooting decided to take immediate action and started protesting against gun violence in the United States.
We have seen an eruption of anger from these students, many of whom lost friends and teachers on that horrific day. Rather than staying home and grieving, they are channeling their outrage to give voice to the issue that devastated their school.
There is truly nothing more empowering than watching a group of teenagers speak up about gun control, form an alliance against politicians who are funded by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and spark a nation-wide movement now known as #NeverAgain.
Many Douglas High School students are advocating for change because they are tired of the normalization of mass shootings in the United States. They have expressed particular disappointment in the government’s failure to ban semi-automatic weapons—the type of gun used in the Parkland shooting—and all other accessories that make them fully automatic. Furthermore, these student activists are pushing for stricter background checks for gun buyers.
Just four days after the shooting, these students began planning the March for Our Lives demonstration, to take place on March 24 in Washington D.C. Numerous celebrities have demonstrated their support for the Parkland community, including Oprah Winfrey and George Clooney, who donated millions to the upcoming march. Former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama have both taken to Twitter to praise and express their support for the teens’ efforts. The former first lady tweeted: “Like every movement for progress in our history, gun reform will take unyielding courage and endurance.”
In light of this activism, it’s extremely maddening that President Donald Trump keeps highlighting mental illness as the prominent issue when mass shootings take place. Yet, as many gun control advocates have pointed out, Trump repealed an initiative in February 2017 that would have made it harder for people with mental illness to purchase guns. This was just one of the many points made in a heart-wrenching speech given by Emma González, a senior at Douglas High School, on Feb. 17. This speech became the defining moment at a gun control rally in Fort Lauderdale the weekend after the shooting.
Another name that has become familiar with the American public and over social media is David Hogg. Hogg is a reporter for the Douglas High School newspaper, now known for his comments on CNN the morning after the shooting: “We are children. You guys are the adults. […] Work together, come over your politics and get something done.”
In addition, Cameron Kasky, a Douglas High School junior, confronted Florida Senator Marco Rubio about accepting millions of dollars from the NRA at the CNN town hall meeting held on Feb. 21. People have praised Kasky for his courageous use of words when talking to the politician on live television. The crowd cheered for the young student and booed Rubio, who couldn’t even respond with a simple “yes” or “no.”
The words of these students over the past two weeks convinced President Trump to call for a ban on bump stocks, which make semi-automatic weapons to fire faster, and prompted Rubio to announce new measures to prevent school shootings, according to CNN. These students’ actions led to CNN hosting a town hall meeting, and their actions led certain advertisers to leave the NRA, according to The New York Times. These students have also raised millions of dollars for the upcoming march in D.C., reported CNN.
I believe this shooting triggered such an uprising because the victims were high school students, some of whom are getting ready to go to college and commence their adult journeys. But what’s most important is that these students have demonstrated they will not tolerate any more gun violence in the United States. Enough is enough.
As I look back on the Parkland shooting, I reflect on how it has affected me personally. I lived in Miami, Fla., for 10 years, and to hear about such a tragedy occurring only an hour away from where my family lives is horrifying. My younger brother is in the sixth grade at a public middle school in Miami, and everyday I fear the worst, knowing he lives in a nation where teenagers can purchase AR-15s.
It’s remarkable to see a group of teenagers who endured such trauma work so hard to change gun laws in the United States. Children shouldn’t have to fear for their lives when they go to school, and the survivors of the Parkland shooting are doing everything they can to make that a reality. As Emma González stated during her speech at Fort Lauderdale: “If us students have learned anything, it’s that if you don’t study, you will fail. And in this case, if you actively do nothing, people continually end up dead. So it’s time to start doing something.”
Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth