My generation grew up hearing about the Columbine shooting. We watched first-graders bury their best friends after Sandy Hook. But following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. that left 17 dead, we’ve decided we’ve had enough. Things must change.
In an unprecedented awakening, high schoolers are leading the rallying cry to revise gun control laws. Passionate and articulate students from MSD have inspired students all over the nation to unite and demand change. Like other communities, Burlingame High School is also feeding off the Parkland momentum. Senior Claire Beswick is part of a district-wide group helping organize a San Mateo March for Our Lives event.
“As students, we have so much more power than we are led to believe,” Beswick said.
But why stop at gun control? We should harness this newfound strength into action on a whole host of prominent issues that affect young people, from bullying to DACA kids to bettering mental health care. These are problems that directly affect us and our futures. We have found our voice and we must use it to send a compelling message to our peers, politicians and anyone else who will listen.
As a political force, teens have been overlooked for too long because we lack organization and a vote. But soon we will be voters and anyone who wants our support is going to have to earn it--with meaningful changes. And now we are organized, too.
The Parkland students have provided us with an effective roadmap. They have sparked a nationwide movement by bringing the gun control issue beyond the typical grassroots campaigns to a national platform. Through social media hashtags such as #NeverAgain, these students are reaching an immeasurable audience and wielding an immense power never seen by citizens too young to vote.
This movement is more than a social media war. The Parkland survivors are already storming Capitol Hill and the Florida state house to call for change, meeting with politicians, relaying their message through major media outlets and organizing their own press releases. They are shaping public opinion on gun control more efficiently than any politician or paid lobbyist.
The results speak for themselves. According to a CNN poll, support for stricter gun control has jumped from 52% to 70% since the Parkland shooting. More than 20 businesses have severed ties with the NRA, including United Airlines and the Best Western hotel chain, and Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods have pledged to no longer sell assault rifles and to raise the minimum age for gun buyers to 21. We are having an impact and we are just getting started.
We can’t let this political energy fizzle away like it has in the past. We must continue to pressure politicians who are too worried about their pride and status in office to instigate real change. We need to show them that gun control is an issue that most Americans are behind. The loudest or most powerful interest groups shouldn’t dictate the safety of the country. Change will be a slow process. Legislative victories will be incremental. But every bit of progress is a necessary step to ensuring our security and to shaping a future where politicians will listen to our concerns. This is not an impossible goal.
On March 24, high schoolers across the country will take part in the March for Our Lives to call for school safety and gun control. This event has been endorsed by a myriad of celebrities, including Oprah and the Clooneys. That event follows a March 14 walkout coordinated by the the organizers of the Women’s March. Another walkout is scheduled for April 20, the anniversary of the Columbine shooting.
We are the change, we are the future, and we are the revolutionaries.