Mass shootings at schools unfortunately aren't unfamiliar incidents for Americans. And not long after a tragedy, most Americans can?identify the?deeply invested groups on different sides of the gun debate.
Some groups, usually conservative, defend the constitutional right to gun ownership and oppose limitations to it. Others, mainly liberal, advocate for laws curbing gun ownership, arguing that such legislation would keep weapons out of the hands of those who wish to do harm.
But last week's high school shooting in Florida?that killed 17 people ¡ª 14 of them students ¡ª has brought to the forefront a group that has not been as active in the conversation: students.
Dozens of students affected by the Florida shooting have written op-eds, participated in protests, spoken at rallies and contacted their lawmakers in response to what may have been one of the most traumatic incidents of their lives. At a time when grass-roots activists have kept sexual assaults against women, racial discrimination and immigration before?politicians and in the headlines, students are emerging as the latest group advocating for policies that not only would improve their quality of life, but could literally save their lives.
On Monday, 17 high school students lay down for three minutes in front of the White House to symbolize the lives lost during the?shooting?at Florida¡¯s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and the time it takes to buy a gun.
The Washington Post's Rachel Chason reported:
They were joined by several hundred protesters who demanded that lawmakers act to end gun violence during an emotional demonstration on Presidents¡¯ Day.
The D.C. protest echoed those orchestrated in Parkland, Fla., and beyond by teenagers who are emerging as?powerful advocates?for stronger gun control following one of the worst?mass shootings?at a school in U.S. history.
¡°This could be a breaking point,¡± said Whitney Bowen, 16, an organizer of the D.C. protest. ¡°We¡¯re still just 16, but at least we¡¯re old enough to have our voices be heard.¡±
These students are sharing a unique trauma that is helping to reveal just how damaging gun violence can be for the coming generations ¡ª an argument that has not received much national attention.
At the foundation of identity politics is the understanding that policies affect different people differently. And students are sharing how gun laws affect them. But will those who make decisions about gun laws ¡ª voters, lawmakers and donors ¡ª lend these young people their ear long enough to create significant policy change?
These students are certainly hoping so, using their time to set up a ¡°headquarters¡± to find a solution, and traveling to their state capitols to talk to lawmakers capable of making change at a local level.
The students also plan to participate in a town hall meeting hosted by CNN on Wednesday. They will share their experiences and ideas for a future that does not include school shootings. Rep. Ted Deutch (D), Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R), all of Florida, have accepted an invitation to participate. Florida Gov. Rick Scott and President Trump have declined.
Trump and other lawmakers have been criticized for?what some of the students call?inaction related to gun violence. As a result, many of these youths have decide to try to fix this problem by themselves.
¡°We¡¯re not 18 yet, so we can¡¯t vote, but we have an advantage living in D.C. and as teenagers with access to social media. I don¡¯t want to be known as a member of the mass shooting generation. It¡¯s horrible, and it¡¯s devastating, and it¡¯s not the legacy I want to leave.¡±
Many of these students are already of voting age, and others will be able to cast ballots soon. And they will be approaching the polls not only with their ideas but also?with a?perspective shaped by watching their classmates be gunned down.
Emma Gonzalez, 18, delivered?a speech?at a Saturday rally that went viral.
¡°We are going to be the kids you read about in textbooks,¡± she said. ¡°Not because we¡¯re going to be another statistic about mass shooting in America ¡ [but because] we are going to be the last mass shooting.¡±