Five months ago, on Valentine’s Day, the Parkland shooting happened. This had led to a large movement to impose common sense gun control laws in the USA. Since then, eighteen other school shootings have occurred, and 19 people have lost their lives. In fact, since I started writing this post, 7 school shooting have occurred in the United States. Every single day 96 people die due to gun violence in America. The Parkland survivors recognized the need for change, and through their grieve they called for action. This article contains the many different ways that Parkland survivors have created change, and the ways it created national attention on other activists, events, and causes.
Enough! National Walkout
On March 14, a national walkout took place to protest gun violence and show their support for gun control. The march took place at 10:00, and students left the classroom for 17 minutes, one minute for each of the victims from the MSD shooting. Over 2500 different walkouts were planned, with thousands of students walking out.
Justin Blackman was a student from a school of 700 in North Carolina, but was the only student to walkout. Here is his video that went viral after he posted it to his twitter page.
Naomi, an eleven year old student from Virginia, planned a walkout for her elementary school, but added an extra minute for African American Gun Violence victims, whose stories don’t make national headlines, such as Courtlin Arrington.
Some school boards were not accepting of the walkout, and threatened students with suspensions and other disciplinary actions. One example is Needville High School who said that no protest would be allowed period. Students have a right to walkout, and although they experience regular punishments for missing a class, they cannot receive further punishment for the nature of the absence.
This was just one of the first nationwide protests that drew national attention to the gun control activists and their cause.
March for Our Lives
Two weeks later, on March 24th, hundreds of thousands of marches took place worldwide in every continent, and there were millions of marchers throughout the globe. The largest march occurred on Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington, DC. This was a youth led, youth engaged march, all speakers were high school age or younger. It was estimated that one million people were in Washington marching that day. From the beginning the March had a tremendous support through social media, and many youth took it upon themselves to organize marches in their own cities.
Some of the speeches that took place on the March For Our Lives stage became heard worldwide. The youth activists messages were heard, understood, and emotionally received. Below are four number of speeches and inspiring moments that occurred during March For Our Lives. One of the reasons that this left an outstanding impact globally is because it showed that we care. It shows that there is a movement here, and a cause that is fueled by passionate individuals from all over the world, who are diverse, vibrant, and range is all ages.
Walk out April 20th
On April 20th, 2018, once again, students walked out of class to protest gun violence. This fell on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine school shooting. More than 2,000 registered events took place. The main difference between this event and the one that took place on March 14th, was that this event was meant to last the entire school day. Student organizers were encouraged to plan open mics, invite speakers, host voter registrations, anything. To find more updates about what the National Student Walkout is up to, follow them on twitter at @schoolwalkoutUS
Meanwhile, back in Parkland, the site of the school full of activists who drew worldwide attention to their activism, the school created a new policy requiring students to use clear backpacks as a measure of security. Many of the students found these to be a temporary solution to a much bigger issue, and many decided to use these to continue to promote their political message, and mock the mandatory backpack. See the attached photos.
A group of students at Marjory Stoney Douglas decided to create a platform for the other students whose stories were not picked up by the media to share. You can view the video below, and follow them on twitter at @storiesuntoldUS to follow their story. The goal is to share the stories of anyone affected by gun violence, not just those whose stories were told.
As I mentioned earlier, there have been multiple shootings, and the media has started to pick up shootings that occur at places other than schools. Since January 1st, 2018 there has been 154 mass shootings in the US. These range from at restaurants, schools, on the street, workplaces, and every other imaginable place. Media has started to cover these shootings, but it is very apparent that not every single one makes it onto the news cycle. There are simply too many to cover.
Road to Change and the Call to Vote
Many of the Parkland students continued to be outrage at what has been happening with gun violence in America. They took to social media, and started to show others the change possible. Many students and advocates from across the United States called on leaders, politicians, government officials to listen to them and make a change. The students of Parkland announced they will be doing a Road To Change event series, where they will drive across the country to engage citizens and encourage them to vote. If the politicians and policy makers won’t make a change, we will vote them out. You can find out if Road to Change is coming near you HERE.
Change the Ref
Manuel Oliver is the father of one of the deceased students from Marjory Stoney Douglas; and he is turning his grief into action and activism. Him and his wife, Patricia started a non-profit organization to make sure no one else has to go through what he did. He has also received recognition for the many murals he has painted.
Jaime Guttenberg was a 14 year old student at MSD, when she was killed on Feb. 14th, 2018. Her family started Orange Ribbons for Jaime, as a way to support programs important to her and common sense gun safety reform.
We are seeing a rise in gun violence across the US, we also are starting to see it rise in Canada as well. Between 2015 and 2016, there was a 163 per cent increase in victims of firearm offences. There is a spike of Gun Violence across Canada, and we are seeing it happen in front of us, whether it be the 342 gun deaths, or the recent mass shooting in Toronto. A recent statistic shows that 98% of guns used in crimes originated in the US. All three levels of Government in Canada need to, and are, coming together to address these issues.
There needs to be a form of gun violence prevention measures put into place. It’s not acceptable to have citizens of any country worried for their safety; not at home, school, work, walking the dog, or at the Waffle House. The needs to be action, and it needs to happen now. Next it could be you, your family, teacher, neighbour, or all.
It can become disheartening after seeing the many shootings in the news, and it seems like there is no way to solve this problem. But when a group of passionate individuals come together to solve an issue, it’s possible. It only takes one; one vote, one call, one tweet, one event. Do what you can to support gun control so that citizens can feel safe. This is only the start of the Road to Change.
How can you help?
Donate to fundraisers that assist in striving for common sense gun control.
SUPGV is an umbrella organization for many state specific organizations doing amazing work. Donate to them directly or find one of their State chapters and donate to the state chapter where you live.
Giffords - Gabby Gifford's Organization
Host a townhall meeting and invite your local candidates. Make sure to ask them where they stand on Gun Violence, and ask them what measures need to be put into place. Do not allow any candidate or representative to shy away from this.
Host a voting registration event.
Express your opinions online.
-use your social media for the better and tweet or post about the issue. You can tag your representatives, share statistics, express your story. Start the conversation.
Register to vote and then vote.