On Saturday, thousands of people took the streets of more than 800 cities and towns around the world to take part in the March For Our Lives, a student-led movement advocating for commonsense gun reform in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that killed 17 students and teachers on Valentine’s Day.
Students from Parkland used the march in Washington DC to lift up the voices of young people of color from communities across the country that experience gun violence every day. Stoneman Douglas students continuously pointed out that the Parkland shooting received significantly more attention than the majority of gun deaths in America, largely because it took place in an affluent, majority-white community.
A number of the impactful speakers at the main march in DC were not even yet teenagers. Martin Luther King’s 9-year-old granddaughter Yolanda Renee King stunned the crowd when she announced that she had a dream of living in “a gun-free world.” And Naomi Wadler, an 11-year-old who led a walkout at her Alexandria, Virginia elementary school, brought attention to the black women and girls who are killed by gun violence in disproportionate numbers, stating “For far too long, these names…have been just numbers. I’m here to say ‘never again’ for those girls, too.”
Many students were wearing price tags that read “$1.05,” the amount of money that Marco Rubio has received from the National Rifle Association (NRA) divided by the number of students in the state of Florida. “This is how much we’re worth to the…government. It’s our price tag,” said Stoneman Douglas freshman Lauren Hogg.
The students have been demanding that politicians address the epidemic of gun violence and are calling out those who take money from the NRA in exchange for silence and inaction. Despite the majority of Americans supporting policies 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 federal legislation over the last ten years that would have implemented stronger gun laws.
Recent gun control activism on the part of young people pushed lawmakers in Florida to pass a law this month raising the legal age for buying rifles to 21, but also allowing the training and arming of teachers and school administrators. The new law also bans bump stocks, makes it easier for police to confiscate weapons from dangerous individuals, and institutes a three day waiting period on all gun sales. Hours after it was signed into law, the NRA filed a lawsuit against the state of Florida arguing that the age restriction violates the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
A week after the Parkland shooting, Oregon lawmakers passed a gun control bill closing a loophole that allowed abusers who had been convicted of domestic violence, but did not live with, marry or have children with their victims, to purchase and own firearms. The new law closes the so-called “boyfriend loophole” and will also apply to those convicted of stalking or people under restraining orders. One in three women and one in four men will be the victim of intimate partner violence in their lifetime.
Media Resources: CNN 3/25/18; BBC 3/10/18; Feminist Newswire 2/20/18, 3/1/18