On Valentine’s Day 2018 a student with a gun opened fire at Stoneman Douglas High School. Armed with an AR-15 style rifle the shooter killed 17 students and staff injuring 17 others. It was the deadliest school shooting in US history and that could have been the end of the story another tragic shooting in a long list but instead the story of Stoneman Douglas is one of strength, activism, and reform. Today marks the one year anniversary since the March for our Lives hosted 200,000 people in Washington DC calling for gun reform. Millions more took part in 800 sibling events in the US and across the globe. The event was created by students who had survived the Parkland shooting a month before and was one of the largest protests in American history.
The organisation was created by Parkland students four days after they lost their friends, classmates, and teachers and now has student led chapters across the US. All demanding their safety with changes to existing gun laws and restrictions. Contrary to the right wing narrative the group does not want to ban guns their policy agenda is clear they are fighting to fund gun violence research, introduce a universal background check, high-capacity magazine ban, semi-automatic rifle ban, disarm all domestic abusers, introducing laws to stop gun trafficking across state lines, and laws enforcing the safe storage of guns when they are not in use. None of these proposals stops anyone from being able to protect their home, hunt, and own a firearm or any other right-wing talking point directed against the group. These policies are undeniably popular with almost everyone outside of Washington.
The students were strong in their conviction that campaign contributions from the NRA were to blame for the lack of action on gun restrictions. To highlight this they calculated the worth of each student across the US based on the campaign donations politicians in individual states and nationwide had received. The national worth of the US children was calculated at a measly $1.18 protestors wore these price tags at the march showing all politicians that they understood why they were not being protected.
MFOL has made gun reform one of the major issues especially for young people and they work hard to register people to vote. They and other organisations encouraging voter participation contributed to a 47% increase of young voters in the 2018 midterm elections compared to 2014. This undeniably contributed to the Democrats taking back the House and is why gun reform is finally being seriously addressed in the chamber. Recently the Democrats voted for universal background checks in the house but the bill is unlikely to pass the Republican controlled senate while Donald Trump has claimed he would veto the bill if it did. Polls in favour of Universal background checks range from 89% to 97% in favour but yet nothing is done that is not what democracy looks like.
It shouldn’t be difficult to understand why this is a main issue for young people a study soon to be published in the American Journal of Medicine showed that being a student in America is more dangerous than being a police officer or in active military duty. 2,462 students were killed with a firearm compared to 144 police officers and 1,000 soldiers. Of these deaths 86% involved boys while 41% were black children.
It is common for violence against white people to become mainstream news, but minority group’s pain is often silenced. MFOL acknowledge that gun violence disproportionately affects people of colour and low economic areas and put people form these communities front and centre at the march to talk about their experiences. This is a grassroots movement created by students for the safety of students. Too many families have lost children and loved ones to gun violence this is a movement that says no more, no more silence, no more lies, it is time for action, it is time for change.
In the time since the shooting 67 new gun safety laws have been signed in 26 states thanks in no small part to the incredible activism of the Parkland students and activists who support Never again and March for Our Lives. Their successes show that a small group of friends can change the world.