Surviving Students are taking the fight for gun control to the White House and NRA
by Andrew Millman
In the wake of the horrific mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in which seventeen people were killed, there has been a sustained and significant activist movement for gun control and a substantial shift in public opinion on the issue. This has given many hope that this horrible incident could potentially lead to change, even after the continued inaction that has fol-lowed previous mass shootings, such in Sandy Hook, Orlando, and Las Vegas, among countless others. The difference appears to be the activism of the survivors, who have been outspoken about the need for gun control and school safety after the mass murder of their classmates. Since the shooting occurred on February 14th, many surviving students have appeared at rallies and on television advocating for gun control. The students are outspoken and organized. Roughly twenty students founded the organiza-tion Never Again MSD. They have been using all resources available to them, most notably social media, to keep gun control atop the political agenda and it is working.
The group, along with Everytown for Gun Safety, is planning a march in Washington, D.C. called the “March for Our Lives” on March 24th, the one-month anniversary of the shooting, to demand change. Marches will be taking place concurrently in most major cities, including New York City. On March 14th, some Women’s March organizers have planned a National School Walkout, which will occur at 10 a.m. and last for seventeen minutes in honor of the seventeen students and staff members killed in the Park-land mass shooting. There are some high schools that plan to punish students who protest, but many colleges, including Fordham, have said that discipline for protests will not negatively affect college appli-cations. There is also another school walkout planned on April 20th, which is the nineteenth anniver-sary of the Columbine High School massacre. Most of this has been organized organically by young people pushing for change when they see that adults have neglected that responsibility.
In the meantime, these students are making themselves impossible to ignore. In the days after the shooting, survivors took to social media and used traditional media interviews to call for gun reform. At a rally the weekend after the shooting, MSD senior Emma Gonzalez gained national recognition for an im-passioned speech at a gun reform rally held just days after she survived one of the deadliest school shootings in this country’s history. Gonzalez is among the twenty students who founded Never Again MSD. They have been organizing in each other’s homes since the shooting and, because of their tire-less efforts, there is a glimmer of hope that something will change this time after the adults have failed to act in the wake of the countless previous mass shootings.
The Never Again students are remarkably well-organized and effective, especially when considering the fact that many of these students still experience post-traumatic stress and other after-effects of the shooting. They are somehow able to overcome this to spearhead a burgeoning political movement. A week after the shooting, students went to Tallahassee, the state capitol of Florida, to advocate for a gun control bill, which was defeated, but they promised those lawmakers that they will hear from them in November when they are up for reelection. Then, CNN hosted a televised town hall for survivors and families to talk to lawmakers and NRA lobbyists about the need for gun control. At the town hall, one student survivor, Cameron Kasky, directly confronted Republican Senator Marco Rubio over his posi-tions on the issue and his campaign contributions from the NRA. Following the town hall meeting, Rubio has announced that he will support some reform measures, such as raising the age limit to twenty-one for all semi-automatic weapons and improved background checks.
Another prong of the students’ activism has been a direct confrontation with the National Rifle Associa-tion and its allies. They have gone after politicians and companies that are associated with the gun lob-by. Never Again has campaigned for the NRA’s corporate sponsors to abandon their partnerships with the lobbying group and special deals for NRA members. They have been successful in getting most corporate sponsors to drop the NRA, most through public shaming. They have been successful mostly because, unlike in politics, in business and marketing, a greater emphasis is placed on younger de-mographics, which are more diverse and progressive. For politicians, the emphasis is on older people, who tend to be more homogeneously white and conservative. Unlike their parents and grandparents’ generations, this current generation has a different perspective when it comes to these horrific mass shootings. By and large, most of the adults have been satisfied with simply offering “thoughts and pray-ers,” but this time things are different because the victims are high-school-aged students who are not content with seeing their classmates slaughtered and having nothing change.
There is still a strong possibility that nothing will change and that we’ll be back in this same position in a couple months, but there is no at least some hope that change will happen and, if not now, then when these young people are in positions of power. Like with many issues, this younger generation is fed up with the direction that their parents and grandparents are taking this country and want to change it. This feeling has given birth to a political movement that, at the very least in this moment, has sent a shock through the political system.
Fordham United Student Government has organized a “Walkout Against Gun Violence” on March 14th in solidarity with the nationwide walkout plans. The walkout will take place at 10 a.m. and, beginning at 10:10 a.m., students demonstrating will observe the seventeen minutes of silence for the seventeen victims of the Parkland shooting, which is similar to other school walkouts planned nationwide. It’ll end around 10:27 a.m., so all you nerds will still be able to make your 10:30 class and do something worth-while with your day too.