On Saturday, March 24th, teenage survivors of the Parkland shooting – and an estimated half a million adults and children who support their call for sensible gun control – will take to the streets of Washington, and hundreds of sister cities, for the March For Our Lives.
The demonstration has been organized by #NeverAgain, a group of students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who saw classmates and teachers slaughtered and injured in a mass shooting on Valentine’s Day.
The students’ determination not to settle for the usual platitudes of ‘thoughts and prayers’, but to lobby for real political change, has reignited the gun control debate in the U.S., rallying fellow citizens to make a stand, and prompting many companies to boycott the National Rifle Association (NRA).
On Wednesday, March 14th, exactly a month after Nikolas Cruz, 19, opened fire at his former Florida high school, killing 15 students and two teachers, tens of thousands of schoolchildren walked out of class in a bid to have their opposition to lapse gun laws acknowledged. As their movement gains momentum, an expected 500,000 protesters will participate in over 800 March For Our Lives events throughout the USA, and even overseas in major cities such as Brussels, London, Madrid, Melbourne, Montreal, Munich, and Toronto.
According to a new poll, an increasing number of Americans across the political spectrum agree that America needs tougher gun regulation. Three-quarters of people polled by NPR/Ipsos in the aftermath of the Florida tragedy said gun laws should be stricter.
In response to the February 14th massacre, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed Senate Bill 7026 into law, allowing some teachers to be armed and with a provision to raise the minimum age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21.
Yet, gun violence at school is already back in the headlines after 17-year-old Austin Wyatt Rollins used a handgun to shoot two students at his Maryland high school on March 20th. His murder attempt ended when he was shot dead by a school resources officer.
According to CNN, there has been on average one school shooting a week in 2018. On average, 1,300 children die and nearly 5,800 are treated for gunshot injuries each year, according to a 2017 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Meanwhile, President Trump is backing away from his initial enthusiasm for a change in gun laws, choosing instead to trot out the standard line from his campaign mega-donors, the NRA – that movies and video games are to blame for depicting gun violence and teachers should be armed to protect students. But arming teachers comes with obvious safety concerns. Earlier this month, a California teacher and reserve police officer injured a 17-year-old student when he accidentally fired his gun during a gun safety course at a school in Seaside.
The Parkland survivors say they will not give up on their quest to enact change. Taking steps that they feel adults have failed to, they have demanded answers from their representatives on live television, they have brought attention to the racial disparities in how America treats gun violence, and they have made mature written and spoken appeals for a safer America.
“The world failed us,” #NeverAgain spokesperson Cameron Kasky told Time Magazine this week. “And we’re here to make a new one that’s going to be easier on the next generation. If you’re against that, then get out.”
As the students prepare for the march this week, they will no doubt feel encouraged by news that the Senate has passed the STOP School Violence Act to prevent school shootings and the Fix NICS Act to help close gaps in background check systems. It is another small step on a long road to sensible gun control.
You can find your local March For Our Lives event here.
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