On the afternoon of Feb. 14th, 2018, tragedy struck Parkland, Florida when a 19-year-old man by the name of Nikolas Cruz entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School armed with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle. Cruz shot and killed 17 people, while 15 others had to be transported to nearby hospitals due to critical injuries. It has since been named one of the world’s deadliest school shootings, joining a list that includes the Virginia Tech Shooting of 2007 and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting of 2012. The Stoneman Douglas High School shooting is the 7th shooting to occur during school hours in 2018—only 44 days into the year.
Cruz was arrested two hours after carrying out the mass shooting. Since then, he has since confessed to 17 counts of premeditated murder. He is in an isolation cell, allegedly on suicide watch, where he will remain until his next court hearing.
Cruz had been expelled last year from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for disciplinary reasons during his senior year. In a disturbing turn of events, it has been revealed that both the police and FBI had been warned of Cruz’s potentially dangerous behavior; nothing was done on their part to prevent the shooting, an egregious error on law enforcement’s part.
The victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting are doing the best to ensure that they will be the last school shooting. Dubbing the movement the Never Again Movement, students are taking action to convince adults to change the gun laws that they believe left them vulnerable to people like Cruz. The 18 teenagers behind the movement were brought together by Cameron Kasky, a junior at the school. Amongst them is Emma González, a young woman who gave a scathing and effective speech directed towards lawmakers on live TV.
Images: -student David Hogg
-student Cameron Kasky
Many, including the 18 students themselves, are commenting on how their age makes them strong activists for the cause of gun control. Compared to other rallies against gun violence, their call to action is different— it is full of a strong-willed, determination that is not surprising from young adults. The campaign is incredibly personal as well; these teens understand the fear of hiding from a gunman and the grief that comes with losing a friend, classmate, or teacher. With the prevalence of social media, their message is not ignorable by adults in power; with the tap of a few buttons, politicians have no choice but to respond directly to the media frenzy that this campaign has deservedly created. These students started advocating immediately during and following the tragedy, claiming the window of attention needed to give this movement rise.
“After what happened in Newtown, those kids were too young to speak out against what happened and to really even maybe understand what happened,” said Chris Grady, a survivor of the shooting.
During the shooting, students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School took to social media to speak out about the events of the shooting. Students tweeted pictures and videos of themselves and their classmates while they remained on lockdown in their classrooms. Other students tweeted notes to friends and family, alerting and updating them on the current situation. However, one of the most horrifying tweets was one that contained a video of students being evacuated from the building. The video shows students frantically evacuating through the hallways, while fatally injured victims lay motionless on the floor. That video along with the plethora of other tweets caused the news of the shooting to spread much faster than it would have with the cable news alone.
After the shooting, students from Stoneman Douglas High School continued to be present on social media, especially Twitter, where they expressed their sorrow, anger, frustration, and sadness. Many students chose to share their stories and videos on Twitter, and others used social media to mourn the losses of close friends or mentors by sharing pictures and messages to honor them. Students like Sarah Chadwick and Carly Novell, both of whom survived the shooting, took to twitter to openly express their opinions about gun control. They used their platforms on social media to speak out in wake of a tragedy that they believe could have been prevented if there were stricter gun control regulations. They, along with many others, called for change by directly addressing our president as well as other politicians and prominent figures in the media.
The students of Stoneman Douglas High School are organizing a rally, March for Our Lives, in Washington, D.C. that is set to take place on March 24. It is in hopes that the event is similar to the impactful Women’s Marches of 2017 and 2018. The students have extended an invite to join the march to anyone interested in supporting their cause.
The teens’ activism is inspiring other teens to lend their voice to the cause as well. On Feb 19., a group called Teens for Gun Reform drew over a hundred people to their lie-in, a form of protest, outside the White House. Students at West Boca Raton High School, 10 miles from Stoneman Douglas High, turned what was intended to be 17 minutes of silence into a march of solidarity towards the site of the tragedy.
The students, and creators of the Never Again Movement, traveled to Tallahassee, Florida’s capital, on Feb 20 to rally state legislators. State Representative Kionne McGhee (D- Miami) had his legislation, a motion to take up a bill banning assault rifles, scheduled. The bill would have banned weapons that allow mass destruction in a short amount of time, such as the weapon Cruz used—an AR-15, which he used to kill 17 people in six minutes. Students watched the motion fail in a vote dividing party lines.
It is a friendly reminder to lawmakers that, by the midterm elections coming up this November, many of these student activists will have voices not only in the newsroom but also in the ballot box. The gun control advocates have large enemies to face, particularly the National Rifle Association, but with a long life of political involvement ahead of them, it’s clear these activists are not going away any time soon.
To add your voice to Never Again Movement and join the students of Stoneman Douglas High School, you can go to https://www.marchforourlives.com/ and sign up for March For Our Lives on March 24th in Washington DC. The student-run website also accepts donations to their cause for those who wish to support the Movement but cannot make it to Washington DC to attend the March.
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