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Parkland Student Activism Inspires Nation

How the Parkland shooting survivors are turning their grief into change

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Parkland Student Activism Inspires Nation

Crowds at the Rally in Tally on February 26th.

Crowds at the Rally in Tally on February 26th.

Photo Credit Taylor Rohleen

Crowds at the Rally in Tally on February 26th.

Photo Credit Taylor Rohleen

Photo Credit Taylor Rohleen

Crowds at the Rally in Tally on February 26th.

Kira Downs, Section Editor

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“We are going to be the kids you read about in textbooks. 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.”

These words of Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school senior Emma Gonzalez received tremendous applause at a gun control rally in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, just days after 17 of her classmates, teachers, and coaches were killed in a school shooting carried out by former student Nikolas Cruz. Gonzalez is only one of the many survivors of this massacre using her traumatizing experience to promote change to gun laws and prevent future gun violence in schools. The students of MSD are vocal, unwilling to back down, and, as former President Barack Obama referred to them, “fearless.” Reception to their outspoken activism has been mixed, but it is undeniable that they will play a pivotal role in enacting change and inspiring those who follow.

When considered in relation to the experiences they have endured and the political climate in which they have grown up, it should come as no surprise that these students are demanding change. The MSD students have grown up in a culture of gun violence. They were born just a few years after the Columbine massacre, they were 4-7 years old when 33 people were killed at Virginia Tech, and they were only a few years older than the 20 first-graders killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Their activism, starting parent’s living rooms, has captured the attention of every media outlet, with impacts spanning from Tallahassee to Washington D.C. Over $3.7 million have been raised for future activism endeavors, their speeches and interviews have been nationally broadcasted, walkouts have been organized, and politicians have been challenged; it is clear that these students are weary of inaction and prepared to catalyze reform that will prevent future stories like theirs.

This tenacity and determination was on full display on February 21st during the CNN Town Hall, in which students were given the opportunity to ask questions of Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Bill Nelson, Representative Ted Deutch, National Rifle Association spokeswoman Dana Loesch, and Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel. Students questioned these officials on NRA donations, their safety, and raising the legal age to buy firearms, calling out what they perceived to be circumlocution and logical fallacies.

“This time, it’s different,” student Lina Crisostomo said. “The Sandy Hook survivors were too young to speak for themselves. Columbine High School students did not have social media, and the shooting preceded the politically charged debate around mass shootings.” This combination of political awareness, oratorical abilities, passion, and social media platforms has made the MSD students a force to be reckoned with as lawmakers debate possible changes to be made.

Social media especially has been an instrumental platform in the formation of the movement. Students have fought back against politicians and political commentators opposed to gun control through tweets of their first hand experiences with gun violence. Just days after the attack, Fox News commentator Tomi Lahren tweeted:

“Can the Left let the families grieve for even 24 hours before they push their anti-gun and anti-gunowner agenda? My goodness. This isn’t about a gun it’s about another lunatic. #FloridaShooting

Her comment fit closely into a common narrative gun rights advocates adopt in the wake of a gun-related tragedy: guns are not the operative factor. Survivor Carly Novell responded in sharp opposition to this sentiment:

“I was hiding in a closet for 2 hours. It was about guns. You weren’t there, you don’t know how it felt. Guns give these disgusting people the ability to kill other human beings. This IS about guns and this is about all the people who had their life abruptly ended because of guns.”

Novell’s tweet garnered over 300,000 retweets, spreading her message throughout Twitter. Parkland students have inspired trending hashtags as well; a simple scroll through #NeverAgain and #MarchForOurLives will yield thousands of tweets discussing new developments in the story and debating various solutions. Information about upcoming walkouts and marches has been disseminated through social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram, forcing the efforts to be front and center in the minds of social media using teens.

Satellite students have joined in on this activism as well; several students attended the Rally in Tally to stand in solidarity for reform. Students also attended the Senate Rules Committee Meeting regarding the passage of the bill dubbed “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act,” a bill that allows teachers to carry firearms on campus but does not cover universal background checks or bans on semiautomatic rifles. This event included speaking from MSD students. On their speaking and activism, Satellite junior Taylor Rohleen. Who was in attendance at this event, commented, “It is remarkable, how these students have risen above a massacre such as this, demanding reform from their legislators. They spoke with eloquence and an utmost passion for the welfare of both our schools and our society.”

As with any protest in times of controversy, not all of the reception to the teenagers’ activism has been positive. Many people, while agreeing with their message, have criticized their rhetoric as disrespectful to the lawmakers from whom they are demanding action. Furthermore, they have become targets of internet conspiracy theories. These theories allege that they are paid “crisis actors” hired by Democrats or the FBI “to further anti-Conservative rhetoric and an anti-gun agenda.” Politician such as Senator Rubio denounced those pushing the allegations as “a disgusting group of idiots.” These theories were primarily brought to light by an aide to Rep. Shawn Harrison, who falsely told a Tampa Bay Times reporter that two Stoneman Douglas students were actually actors “that travel to various crisis when they happen.” The aide was consequently fired for his actions.

Despite opposition, the students have achieved some of their legislation related goals. Florida governor Rick Scott has recently announced a $500 million spending plan to bolster school safety and improve mental health programs in the state. He has also expressed support for increasing the minimum age to own a firearm from 18 to 21 and the banning of bump stocks.

However, the battle is far from over for these student activists. The potential passage of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act directly contradicts some of the central tenets of the movement, and NRA officials continue to fight most attempts at reform. As the movement continues to work towards their goals, the survivors of this unspeakable tragedy will continue to spearhead this movement and use their voices to inspire a new future.

About the Contributors
Kira Downs, Section Editor

I’m Kira Downs, a 12th grade Telstar Writer. I am a lover of books, coffee, and striped shirts. If you’re wondering who smells like chlorine in your...

Taylor Rohleen, Editor-in-Chief

Student Body President. Captain of the Swim Team. FJCL Vice President. Dancing Queen.

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