In the wake of the United States’s ninth deadliest shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, students are demanding real, substantive gun reform legislation. This demand for change has rippled throughout the nation and has resulted in a series of protests and demonstrations on the part of these courageous students. Many nation-wide “walk-outs” are scheduled for March 14 and March 24 as part of the March for Our Lives campaign. Students also participated in a “lie- in” in front of the White House only days after the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14th. Due to the press that these demonstrations have garnered, people all over the country are entering the debate surrounding gun control.
Students are fed up with the cliché rhetoric. Thoughts and prayers are not enough—they never have been. This generation, our generation, is taking major steps to reform gun laws and legislation. These actions have included survivors of the Parkland shooting confronting Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson at a town hall hosted by CNN. Students pointedly asked Rubio and Nelson if they were willing to support a ban of certain assault rifles and to stop accepting donations from the National Rifle Association. Rubio asserted that he would be, “open to reconsidering the size of gun magazines” (CNN). Rubio would not make a definitive statement about whether or not he plans to accept more donations from the NRA. The students expressed concerns that they were the ones who were fighting for their safety while politicians remain ambiguous on the issue of gun control. In short, high school students are telling their representatives that the era of inaction is over.
It is important that the message behind these protests and demonstrations remains unified and focused. Some are unclear on the purpose of these school walkouts, thinking that they are meant to memorialize the victims of the Parkland shooting. In actuality, these walkouts are part of a student-run campaign to reform gun laws. These students are not only marching for their fallen peers. Rather, these demonstrations are meant to be catalysts for a change in legislation. The best way to honor and commemorate the lives that have been lost is to make sure that no school, no family, no community, is ever affected by a mass shooting again.
While it is admirable to participate in these walk-outs and demonstrations, it is important that the action doesn’t end there. Senseless gun violence ends with our generation—that is the message of these protests. It’s time that the new generation of voters begins to take notice of what is going on in Congress and the White House. Survivors of the Parkland shooting are urging their peers to take a stand and to hold their elected-officials responsible.
Never think that your voice is too small to make a change. Register to vote, and then vote. Find out who is representing you in Congress and call them. Tell them that you vote for candidates who make gun reform a priority. Boycott establishments that don’t require thorough and complete background checks for gun owners. If you choose to keep a gun in your home, learn how to best secure it.
The vigils end with us. The death counts end with us. Senseless gun violence ends with us.