After a mass school shooting that took place on February 14, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, high school students across America are saying, “Enough is enough.” When this mass shooting left 17 people dead and many others injured, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School decided there needed to be a movement – a movement that would stand up for the senseless killings. Students formed a group called “Never Again MSD” and took to social media to demand their voices be heard. Survivors used the hashtag #Never Again and began organizing marches and times to speak to their Florida legislators. Leaders of “Never Again MSD” include students Cameron Kazky, Emma González, David Hogg, Alex Wind, and Sofie Whitney.
These students have spoken out against legislators supported by the National Rifle Association (NRA). Recent opposition to the NRA is making a big statement. Massive corporations have begun ending their sponsorships and member discounts with the NRA. The NRA’s response to the most recent mass shootings has been one of offense, calling for more armed security in schools.
While large companies and powerful individuals debate this long overlooked topic, high school students are organizing everywhere. On March 24, 2018, “March for Our Lives” will be taking place in cities across the country. A national march will be taking place in Washington D.C. led by the non-profit organization “Everytown for Gun Safety.” The Des Moines “March for Our Lives” will take place on the same day at the Iowa State Capitol building. Events are set to take place at 2 p.m.
Not only are large scale marches being organized, but school walkouts are being planned by students everywhere. Students are using the hashtag #NationalSchoolWalkOut for events that will take place on April 20, 2018, the anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting. High schools can even register their walkout on a website and purchase a National School Walkout shirt. Urbandale High School senior, Briar Conrey, gives her opinion on walkouts, “From what I gather now, we are collectively leaving school to make a political statement while losing some education. However, what’s in a day of school? I’ve missed school for medical reasons and I am doing fine. So, some part of me thinks that us protesting people losing their lives and right to education by leaving our education behind in silly. Some part of me thinks it’s important to do so.” Other Urbandale students have also critiqued the idea of walkouts. “I think they are a good mean of political activism when done correctly. However, Urbandale recently had a walkout and it was fifteen students standing around a flagpole achieving essentially nothing for the gun control reform movement. Walkouts need to be centered around lobbying for reformative legislation. They need to be aimed toward legislators and in large numbers,” says Urbandale senior, Alex Thompson.
Noah Hoffman, another Urbandale senior, holds a similar position to Thompson on the matter. “I think it’s good that students are making their voices heard, but the inclusion of multiple voices would make these walkouts more powerful. With that said, I would encourage organizers to try and make these walkouts a peaceful and productive dialogue about the issue,” says Hoffman.
School walkouts are not the only ways high school students can make their voices heard. This is an opinion held by both Alex Thompson and Noah Hoffman. “As of now, I don’t plan on participating in any demonstrations because I think there are more effective ways to make change than a walkout. A better use of time, in my opinion, would be a pointed effort towards state, local, and school district officials,” says Hoffman. When asked how he thought high school students could make a difference, Thompson replied, “I think we should make a conscious effort to act differently than our legislators. We need to participate in thoughtful conversation with both sides, all the while taking full advantage of our voices in today’s politics.”
Both Noah Hoffman and Alex Thompson detailed their initial reactions to the gun control reform movement. “I’m encouraged by the political activism shown by youth in America. I think gun control is an issue that has long been overlooked. I’ve written multiple papers over the topic this year, and during my research I found that there has been only one bill passed in the last 14 years that has worked to regulate guns in America. However, I’ve also been discouraged by the increased partisanship in the issue as I feel that such a prominent issue in society should bring legislators together to come up with a solution, rather than tear at each other’s throats.” Hoffman had a similar reaction, “Well, I think it’s great that people are taking issue with the current system given that it’s been largely ignored on a legislative front for quite some time. I also think that both sides, left and right, truly do want to ensure that these shooting never happen again; but to do so, both sides need to work together. My critique of the movement is that it seems there is an unwillingness to look at the issue from both perspectives. Both sides should have a voice heard in the issue. Shouting, “You have blood on your hands,” to second amendment supporters is not the way to make that happen. I think if the movement can incorporate both liberal and conservative voices, we all will be better off.”
Regardless of an individual’s position on the issue, the general consensus from high school students is clear: Enough is enough; young people are demanding meaningful conversation and realistic legislation regarding gun control in America.