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In the aftermath of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, students across the country have taken action by protesting and voicing their concerns about firearms.
On March 14th, 2018, high school students from Bard High School Early College, located inside LaGuardia Community College’s B-building, walked out of class and began marching towards Court Square to protest the lack of gun control in front of the Long Island City Courthouse. Teachers and security guards walked alongside the students to escort them to their destination. Students were seen holding various signs as they marched towards the courthouse. One read “Arm teachers with books not guns!” Upon arrival, student organizers spoke over a megaphone, which drew the attention of pedestrians, who watched in awe.
Solidarity was shown amongst the teenagers, who began to chant in unison “Donald and the NRA, how many kids did you kill today!” and proclaimed, “We are the generation that will end gun violence.” After the chanting, the students observed a moment of silence to honor the victims of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. In midst of the silence, one speaker began to shout the name of each victim who lost their life at Stoneman Douglas. When the silence was over and students began to walk back to the B-building, a man approached one of the students and proceeded to shake his hand while telling him, “thank you for protesting.”
Once inside the B-building, the students laid down on the floor of the lobby in silence as organizers encouraged the student protesters to call their representatives and register to vote once they turn 18 so they could make a difference in their country. Despite being teenagers, they wanted their message to be heard and taken seriously.
A much larger protest called March for Our Lives was organized and held on Saturday, March 24th. Over 800 rallies that included thousands of students, activists, and those affected by gun violence descended across the nation and marched in the name of passing significant gun control reforms.
Survivors of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting went to Washington, D.C. to speak out against the violence they witnessed and demand that politicians make changes to gun laws. Some of the proposed changes include bans on high-capacity magazines, assault rifle bans, universal background checks, funds to allow the Center for Disease Control to research the gun violence epidemic in America, and for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms to begin a digitized, searchable database.
The protest swept through multiple cities across the United States. According to The Washington Post, over 500,000 students, activists and those affected by gun violence protested and marched through Washington D.C.
Mayor Bill De Blasio tweeted that same afternoon saying over 150,000 demonstrators rallied at the west side of New York’s Central Park and stating, “You have to know when a revolution in starting…” Survivors from the Stoneman Douglas shooting, Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, and the Las Vegas Harvest Music Festival shooting recounted their horrific experiences. Representatives from Black Lives Matter also spoke about their experiences with gun violence in minority communities.
The march in New York departed from the west side of Central Park, lasted several hours, and ended on 43rd Street and 6th Avenue at 4pm. Several times during the march, chants of “Shame on you” were directed towards the Fox News building by the protestors.
LaGuardia Community College students have voiced their concerns about the handling of this issue, and the future safety of schools. When asked about what they feel is the best solution being proposed right now, Political Science major Chris King says, “It would be really hard to imagine anything really being banned and if any guns are banned, I think it will just turn into another issue.” Michelle Alvarez a Nursing major also commented on the topic of proposed solutions to gun safety. “I feel like we have to protect the kids with guns right now; they need security. But until we do something about all the guns out there, the threat will always be there,” she said.
March for Our Lives managed to garner 5,000 new voter registrations through their rallies, according to Voice of America, an online student union newspaper.
David Hogg of the March for Our Lives movement, delivered a politically charged and controversial speech. Mr. Hogg channeled his emotional energy, leading the crowd into a succession of “no more” chants and urging the public to vote out “representatives who have no public stance” on gun control reform. Mr. Hogg focused his message on the recent surge of youth getting involved with political activism, vowing to make gun control reform the voting issue in the upcoming elections. Mr. Hogg has committed to take the gun control reform issue to “every election, every state, and every city.”
There have been many proposed solutions from all branches of the U.S. government, with certain provisions being tested in states like Florida. Methods such as wearing ID badges, see-through plastic book-bags, and arming teachers with firearms were brought up.
The most controversial proposal was the ban on semi-automatic rifles. According to The Seattle Times, “seven out of ten” of the deadliest mass shootings that have happened in the last 10 years have all used semi-automatic rifles. Nikolas Cruz, the shooter at Stoneman Douglas High School, used a legally purchased AR-15 semi-automatic rifle to carry out his attack. Stephen Paddock, the shooter responsible with the Las Vegas Music Festival attack, had 17 weapons in his hotel room when apprehended by Las Vegas police officers. At least one firearm had been modified with a “bump stock,” a device which turns a semi-automatic rifle to function as if it were a fully automatic rifle.
Since the Las Vegas attack, bump stocks have come in to legal question and so has the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Bureau’s ability to ban such devices as well.
Despite all these efforts to raise awareness of gun violence, on May 18th, 2018, a 17-year-old-student walked into Santa Fe High School and killed 10 people and wounded at least another 10.
Of the 10 that were killed, eight were students and two were teachers at the school. As of May, the Gun Violence Archives, a website that tracks and verifies incidents including all firearms, says the total number of mass shootings across the nation is now 102.