Seventeen people were shot to death at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Valentine’s Day. Their peers and family members want this mass shooting to be the last one—and they are organizing a “March for Our Lives” march on Washington D.C. set for March 24.
On a crowded podium the day after the Florida high school shooting, 12th grader and survivor of the recent massacre stood surrounded by victims’ family members and other shooting survivors and spoke to a crowd at a gun control rally in Fort Lauderdale. She recalled cowering in a closet for hours while she heard gunfire rain down on her friends, shamed lawmakers for taking money from the NRA and refusing to take action on gun violence.
“Every single person who is up her today, all these people, should be at home grieving, but instead we are up here because if all our government and president can do is pend thoughts and prayers, then it’s time for victims to be the change that we need to see,” González said. “We need to pay attention to the fact that this isn’t just a mental health issue. He wouldn’t have harmed that many students with a knife!”
González is organizing a national protest effort alongside fellow students David Hogg, Alex Wind, Cameron Kasky and Jacqueline Coren, all of whom attend Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and were present the day of the shooting. The goal is to pressure legislators to implement stronger firearm regulations—and, ideally, restrict access to automatic and semiautomatic weapons like the AR-15 that allegedly enabled the gunman to massacre people at the school last week.
“We are going to be the last mass shooting,” said Emma González to a roaring crowd at the gun control rally. “Just like Tinker v. Des Moines we are going to change the law. That’s gonna be Marjory Stoneman Douglass [High School] in that textbook. And it’s all going to be due to the tireless effort of the school baord, the faculty members, the family members and most importantly the students. The students who are dead, the students still in the hospital, the students who are now suffering from PTSD.”
“Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa was the sole sponsor on this bill that stops the FBI From performing background checks on people adjudicated to be mentally ill and now he’s stating for the record, ‘Well, it’s a shame that hte FBI isn’t performing background checks on these mentally ill people.’ Well, duh. You took that opportunity away last year,” González said.
“The people in the government who were voted into power are lying to us,” she continued. “And us kids seem to be the only ones who notice and are prepared to call BS.”
In addition to the March for Our Lives event on March 24, the organizers of the Women’s March are supporting the students’ efforts by calling for a national school walkout, the #Enough Walkout, on March 14.
Enough is enough!
Women’s March Youth EMPOWER is calling for students, teachers, and allies to take part in a #NationalSchoolWalkout for 17 minutes at 10am on March 14, 2018. Join us in saying #ENOUGH!https://t.co/8ZE8uthRlZ pic.twitter.com/45yCZl4zDm
— Women’s March (@womensmarch) February 16, 2018
The goal, by and large, is to force the nation’s elected officials, and Republicans in particular, to take action against gun violence that extends beyond their thoughts and prayers, as student survivors and victims’ parents have made clear.
““From here on, we are creating a badge of shame for any politicians who are accepting money from the NRA,” 11th grader and school shooting survivor Cameron Kasky said to People. “It is a special interest group that has most certainly not [got] our best interests in mind. …
“At the end of the day, this isn’t a red and blue thing. This isn’t Democrats or Republicans. This is about everybody and how we are begging for our lives,” he added. “We need to make real change here and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
April M. Short is a freelance writer who focuses on health, wellness and social justice. She previously worked as AlterNet’s drugs and health editor.