Students’ Role in Advocating for Gun Control

by Vendela Krenkel ‘20

Following the tragic events of the Parkland High School shooting on Valentine’s Day, students across the country have become involved in the politics surrounding the issue. Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) students have travelled to New York and Los Angeles to confer with activist organizations supporting a nationwide stand for stricter gun control laws. Earlier this week, survivors marched on the Florida state capitol to demand the legislature to take action, ordering lawmakers to “look [them] in the eye” while they spoke of the victims’ deaths.

“We know that we don’t have to take anything from anybody. We are survivors,” said senior Diego Pfeiffer, who organized Never Again MSD, an organization created to push for tighter gun control.
Students and others later had a meeting with President Trump to discuss viable solutions to gun violence in America, during which he held a note sheet for questions and replies to the students’ concerns, including “I hear you.”

Unlike past school shootings, the call to action is being led by teenagers, one of the most famous being Emma Gonzáles, a junior at MSD, whose speech at a Fort Lauderdale courthouse rally went viral. “We are going to be the kids you read about in textbooks,” she said. “Not because we’re going to be another statistic about mass shooting in America … We are going to be the last.”

Her fellow survivors are joining Gonzáles in speaking out against the National Rifle Association (NRA) paying government officials to support the organization’s agenda. They believe legislators are being bribed to refrain from limiting the accessibility of firearms. To remedy this, Gonzáles and MSD senior David Hogg are organizing the Washington D.C. “March For Our Lives” on March 24, which has an expected turnout of 500,000. There will be sister marches across the country in major cities such as Detroit, Boston, and Philadelphia. The lack of gun control laws have become an international issue; London and Toronto have coordinated to participate in the protest.

Students from around the United States are using news and social media to let their voices be heard and to push for political change. Last week, sophomore Lane Murdock of Ridgefield High School in Connecticut created “National Walkout Day” through a petition. Murdock teamed up with junior Paul Kim, the school’s SGA president, and together they received nearly 100,000 student pledges to engage in the nationwide walkout planned for April 20, the nineteenth anniversary of the Columbine shooting.

Students of Iowa City High School put together a rally that they publicized in the school newspaper in which 250 teenagers protested gun violence in school and advocated for more restrictive gun control laws.
And the students don’t stand alone in the fight; groups such as the Women’s March, Americans for Responsible Solutions, and Everytown for Gun Safety have helped plan rallies and find the funding to accommodate the supporters of the protests.

However, the patrons for anti-gun violence have recently come under attack. Some conservative news sites have investigated Parkland survivors to detect whether they have been coached. In a recent CNN “New Day,” former Republican congressman and CNN commentator Jack Kingston said that MSD students have been “hijacked by left-wing groups that have an agenda.” Some media sources claim that David Hogg has been coached by his father, a retired FBI agent who ended his career due to early-onset Parkinson’s disease. Donald Trump Jr. liked a tweet that suggested Hogg was coached, but he denies such allegations.

Benjamin Kelly, a Florida legislator’s aide, was fired after saying that the Parkland survivors are “actors that travel to various crises when they happen,” citing a video of Hogg in California as proof. He apologized on Twitter, but later tweeted “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” and shortly after, his account was deleted. The conspiracy theory that MSD students are “crisis actors,” paid to pretend to have been present during the shooting and to feign anger and concern in order for left-wing groups to sway lawmakers to pass stricter gun control laws, is a popular one on many right-wing news sources.

Despite polarization, Parkland senior Delaney Tarr said that the teenagers involved in the movement “are not making this a partisan issue. [It is] a life-or-death issue.”

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