Students across the country are demanding that politicians address the epidemic of gun violence and are calling out those who take money from the National Rifle Association (NRA) in exchange for silence and inaction. These actions come in the wake of last week’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, during which 17 teachers and students were killed by a 19-year old man armed with a semiautomatic assault rifle.
As President Trump was preparing to visit Parkland, students were clear that they were outraged over his refusal to callout easy access to military style weapons as a problem. During his trip, Trump met with first-responders, medical staff, and some hospitalized victims, but did not meet with any of the students, teachers or parents calling for accountability. The NRA, an interest group that is widely considered to be an advocate for the gun manufacturing lobby, was the single largest donor group to President Trump’s campaign and has spent tens of millions of dollars on Congressional campaign contributions and on candidate spending in order to buy political influence.
“This is about us begging for our lives; this isn’t about the GOP, this isn’t about the Democrats, this is about us creating a badge of shame for any politicians accepting money from the NRA and using us as collateral,” said Cameron Kasky, a junior at Douglas High School.
“Any politician who is coming to just talk or just to give their thoughts and prayers, that’s not needed,” said Michael Udine, a county commissioner in Broward County, which includes Parkland. “Thoughts and prayers are not good enough anymore.”
Despite the majority of Americans supporting commonsense gun reform like universal background checks, bans on assault weapons, and barring gun purchases for people on the terrorist watch list, the NRA has succeeded in blocking almost all legislation that would implement stronger gun laws.
Multiple high schools in southern Florida staged walkouts last week to demand commonsense gun reform, and on Monday, students held a protest in front of the White House, laying on the ground in representation of the lives lost in school shootings and chanting slogans like, “Hey, hey, NRA, how many kids have you killed today?”
“We might be 16 now and we might not be able to vote, but we can protest and we can use social media and we will make our voices heard,” said Whitney Bowen, an organizer of Monday’s protest. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t come down to politics. It comes down to kids dying in classrooms.”
Young people are organizing nationwide “March for Our Lives” rallies on March 24 and Women’s March Youth EMPOWER is calling for a National School Walkout on March 14. In July, the Women’s March, the Feminist Majority Foundation and several other organizations participated in a 17-mile, two-day rally in the Washington DC area to protest the NRA’s promotion of violence against progressive activists—especially women and people of color, as well as the lack of action the NRA took in response to the shooting death of Philando Castile.
Today’s teenagers are part of a generation that grew up after Columbine and have been practicing active shooter drills since they were in elementary school. Dozens of schools in states from Michigan to Massachusetts were shut down last week after copycats threatened similar mass shooting attacks. Parkland was the 18th school shooting of 2018, an average of one every sixty hours, more than double the amount in the same time span from the previous three years.
Media Resources: Washington Post 2/18/18; Huffington Post 2/19/18; NBC Miami 2/16/18