Last week, on Valentine’s Day, a horrific shooting happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Since then, survivors of the shooting and other youth activists have joined forces to speak out against gun advocates. Yesterday, youth across the nation staged walked outs from their schools to protest gun violence and to honor the 17 victims lost last week — they took to the streets in droves with signs that read “Not One More,” “Spread Love, Not Blood,” “No More Guns,” and “Gun Control Now.”
Emma Gonzalez, a survivor of last week’s shooting, has been speaking out against the NRA and gun violence on behalf of her classmates and teachers who were lost in the violent shooting. The only thing High School seniors like Gonzalez should have to worry about is their weekend plans with friends and figuring out next life steps, like applying for college. They shouldn’t be fearful that when they walk into school, they might not have the chance to walk out by the end of the day. In 2018, there have already been 17 school shootings.
In a time when they should have been able to mourn their lost friends and community members, student activists like Gonzalez, went out with a clear purpose and message this past weekend. They were impossible to miss through penning op-ed pieces online, speaking on cable news stations, orating powerful speeches and planning massive nation-wide protests. These actions have amplified a unified message: Never again do we wish to see a mass shooting in this country.
These teens have been mocked and belittled by our elected officials, though the change they’re creating is far more valuable than anything our politicians have done to take action for gun control. These politicians muted messages get drowned out by the fact that over 100 of our lawmakers have received sizable donations from the NRA for their campaigns. Watching video footage from the aftermath of this shooting was heartbreaking, hearing young people recount seeing dead bodies on the ground as they exited their school.
Gonzalez’s background in organizing as president of her school’s GSA has given her a strong foundation to continue building this movement with her peers who are now planning a “March for Our Lives,” which will take place on March 24 as a nation-wide demonstration that they hope will serve as the movement’s coming-out party.
“Australia had one mass shooting in 1999 in Port Arthur (and after the) massacre introduced gun safety, and it hasn’t had one since. Japan has never had a mass shooting. Canada has had three and the UK had one and they both introduced gun control and yet here we are, [with websites dedicated to reporting these tragedies so that they can be formulated into statistics for your convenience],” Gonzalez informed the audience of the Fort Lauderdale rally this past Saturday.
“Companies trying to make caricatures of the teenagers these days, saying that all we are self-involved and trend-obsessed and they hush us into submission when our message doesn’t reach the ears of the nation, we are prepared to call BS. Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have been done to prevent this, we call BS. They say tougher guns laws do not decrease gun violence. We call BS. They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. We call BS. They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars. We call BS. They say no laws could have prevented the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred. We call BS. That us kids don’t know what we’re talking about, that we’re too young to understand how the government works. We call BS,” Gonzalez ended her speech with.
The video of this speech has now been viewed over 1 million times. This speech will go down in the history books because her passion streams through her words. Gonzalez proves to all nonbelievers that young people are our bright future. Without their persistence, our society would have no hope for progressive and radical change. If policymakers and adults acted through their hearts and not their wallets, then maybe kids would still be allowed to have a childhood. They are stepping up because the generations before them haven’t.
These students understand that what it takes to truly end gun violence is reform and policy change. Gonzalez and her fellow organizers are committed to this for the long haul. “The week ahead is mapped out on whiteboards that were purchased at Target,” BuzzFeed reported from their living room headquarters. “On the boards are the names of the organizers, with their commitments for the week, and green tape dividing the days in makeshift fashion. Major news network appointments are mixed in with the times of funerals.”
To those who have criticized their fierce activism so shortly after the shooting — Gonzalez has said that this is how she wants to grieve. So that other students don’t have to experience what she did. Last night, she appeared on CNN again — this time in debate with NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch.
“Dana Loesch, I want you to know that we will support your two children in the way that you will not,” Gonzalez said on CNN, referring to gun control. She continued by asking Loesch whether or not she believes that automatic weapons and other guns should be more difficult to purchase. When Loesch answered her in a roundabout way, often referring to mental illness, Gonzalez pushed her further for a more straightforward response.
In her now viral speech in Fort Lauderdale, Gonzalez had already responded to comments about mass shootings being a mental health issue — not a gun issue. “We know that they are claiming mental health issues, and I am not a psychologist, but we need to pay attention to the fact that this was not just a mental health issue. He would not have harmed that many students with a knife,” she says.
It is young people like Gonzalez who give us hope for a better future — one where this kind of tragedy is not a normalcy for students in this country. Maybe a new generation will see the path paved by Gonzalez and her peers to know a future without fear of gun violence in their schools. But this can’t happen if we don’t join them now and demand change.
You can support these student’s mission by donating to their March For Our Lives on March 24. To join the resistance against gun violence, head over to everytown.org, join Gays Against Guns, text ‘RESIST’ to 50409 to contact your representative today, or find out if your money is going to gun manufactures at goodbyegunstocks.com.