Parkland survivors not letting nation forget

Courtesy of Twitter
Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School student Emma Gonzalez took to social media to become an outspoken activist for gun control. Her account gathered more than a million followers.

03/01/2018

By Alyse Kaminski | Staff Columnist

According to U.S. News, there are 2,972 students enrolled at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. This means that 5,944 parents and guardians, give or take, sent their kids to school on Feb. 14, 2018, expecting them to come home safe and sound. By the end of the day, the parents of 17 had to cope with the news that their children died as victims of a mass shooting.

Prior to this tragedy, I began to notice a trend in America. It was a vicious cycle that I thought we would never find ourselves out of: shooting, “thoughts and prayers” for a week, then back to normalcy. Months later, another shooting occurs, and the cycle begins again. As the familiar pleas rang out in the aftermath of violence, I realized that Americans have become numb to hearing about “x number of people killed at y place.”

Just in my first semester of college alone, I heard news of two highly publicized shootings: one at the Las Vegas concert and the other at Sutherland Springs. According to the not-for-profit corporation Gun Violence Archive, Sutherland Springs marked the 307th mass shooting in America for 2017. If you reflect back upon the days before Nov. 6, it seemed that our country as a whole just forgot about or grew apathetic to the issue of gun violence.

After the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas, our government officials once again tweeted their “thoughts and prayers” to the victims. Of course, there is no problem with turning to God in times of strife. However, nothing substantial changes because of mere condolences. We hear talk about mental health and background checks, but not a thing happens in the aftermath. We just wait another month to receive a notification on our phones that more lives were lost.

At least that’s how things used to be. This time, the survivors of the shooting decided to take things into their own hands. Stoneman Douglas students have taken to social media and traditional news outlets to speak out about their right to go to school safely. These students are not just sounding off about their beliefs, either. They are organizing, as well they should.

On Feb. 23, The Washington Post posted a video of five students from MSD announcing the date and reasons for the March For Our Lives. The protest will be held on March 24 in various cities around the country. Organizers hope to use this event as an opportunity to change minds and cause President Trump, Sen Rubio (R-FL) and Gov Rick Scott (R-FL) to act on gun control. On top of this, organizers from the Women’s March are encouraging a national school walkout 10 days prior to the march for much the same reason.

Needless to say, I am all for both events. It has been a long time coming that Americans see a group of people protesting gun violence. With the amount of lives taken over the last decade due to shootings, I am actually surprised that this type of organizing has not happened yet. I highly encourage other students to participate in these events.

To address the backlash to these events: I encourage people to understand that these protests are not necessarily about taking guns away from people. The “liberal agenda” as a whole is not about that. It is about keeping weapons out of the hands of people who should not have them. Perhaps even more, this movement currently focuses on the fact that no civilian has a good reason to have a military-style weapon in their home.

That’s right, most liberals are not protesting against your right to a handgun or right to hunt. These protests are about the fact that people over and over again legally get their hands on an AR-15 or parts to build it, and then use the gun to take lives. These weapons were not created for protection; they were created to kill, and we all know it.

Although I find it difficult to live in a time where everyone is in danger when in public, I am hopeful for change. However, it may not happen soon. I really believe that as long as we have legislators like Rubio, minds won’t be changed. It may be awhile until the cycle ends.

But, change is coming. One day the kids who are organizing and speaking up will run for office. Really, we could be the ones to change this. That is why I fully support walking out and marching this month.

Mikel Jollett, lead singer of indie rock band Airborne Toxic Event, said it better than I could: “When your children act like leaders, and your leaders act like children, you know change is coming.”

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