In the wake of the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, people are hungry for a change.
When we saw the news that someone had opened fire on the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSDHS), we were shocked. Then angry. Then heartbroken—and all of those emotions together. And perhaps the most disturbing thing was that, while the shooting in Parkland was horrifying, it wasn’t unique. It’s not the first school schooting—it’s just the most recent. And everyone, everyone, cries out please, please let this be the last one.
And while many of us are left reeling, the students of Parkland are acting. They have clear goals in mind, and they have been busy.
On the morning of Tuesday, February 20th, students attended a funeral for one of their fallen classmates, and afterward three busloads of them headed to Tallahassee, Florida’s capital. It was an 8-hour trip, but the students were determined.
They had meetings set with state legislators, Attorney General Pam Bondi, and Governor Rick Scott.
But before the students arrived at the capital city, the protests and demands for change had already begun. On Tuesday the 20th, several Florida high school students held “walk-out” demonstrations to protest gun violence. About 1,000 students from West Boca Raton Community High School chanted “We want change” as they marched, escorted by police, to the MSDHS campus, about 10 miles away. Students held signs that said, among other things, “Protect kids not guns.”
On Wednesday in Tallahassee, the Parkland students were not alone. Thousands of student protestors were there at the capitol building supporting them, demanding reform. The Parkland students had meetings with democrat and republican lawmakers, about 70 in all, and ended the day with a 2-hour private meeting with Governor Rick Scott.
Later that evening many attended a town hall meeting with Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson and Representative Ted Deutch. At the meeting, students and parents of victims called upon Senator Rubio to make tougher restrictions on weapons. Rubio said there needed to be a way for everyone to agree on the right changes.
Avery Anger, a 14-year-old student at MSDHS, had a simple question at the town hall. “Is it going to be safe for me to go back to school?”
What exactly are the students from Parkland asking for? Delany Tarr, 17, of MSDHS told Sun Sentinel , “We want common sense gun laws. We want stronger mental health checks and background checks to work in conjunction. We want a better age limit. We want privatized selling to be completely reformed so you can’t just walk into a building with $130 and walk out with an AR-15.”
And Delany seems to sum up what most of the Parkland students, and students around the country, are asking for. The students are advocating for increased mental health screenings, school safety measures, stricter age laws on acquiring guns, and an assault weapons ban.
Christine Yared, in an op-ed piece for the New York Times, writes,
“We can’t let innocent people’s deaths be in vain. We need to work together beyond political parties to make sure this never happens again. We need tougher gun laws. If a person is not old enough to be able to rent a car or buy a beer, then he should not be able to legally purchase a weapon of mass destruction. This could have been prevented. If the killer had been properly treated for his mental illness, maybe this would not have happened. If there were proper background checks, then those who should not have guns would not have them.”
The students aren’t finished. High school students all over the country have joined the #neveragain movement, staging protests and demonstrations asking lawmakers to make their lives safer.
But the biggest move is yet to come. Students are planning a march in Washington D.C. to ask for increased gun control and school safety measures. Other demonstrations are planned to take place across the country. The Women’s March is organizing a school walkout on March 14th, the one-month anniversary of the Parkland shooting, and on April 20th the National High School Walkout will honor the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shootings.
There is momentum. The students from MSDHS know what they want, and their movement may just be strong enough to create a real change.
Daniel Bishop, a 16-year-old-student from MSDHS, shared his thoughts with the New York Times, “This shooting is different from the other ones. Sandy Hook, they were elementary school kids who couldn’t stand up for themselves. Virginia Tech was 2007, a different time. But this one, I just have a gut feeling — something is going to change.”
We hope that Daniel is right.
Join the students in asking for more extensive background checks and stricter restrictions on assault weapons. Let lawmakers know you stand with the students. Click on the petition below and stand up for safer schools!
Katie Taylor started writing in 5th grade and hasn't stopped since. Her favorite place to pen a phrase is in front of her fireplace with a cup of tea, but she's been known to write in parking lots on the backs of old receipts if necessary. She and her husband live cozily in the Pacific Northwest enjoying rainy days and Netflix.