March 14th marked the one-month anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida. I and thousands of other students around the country walked out of our classes at 10 AM in support of ending gun violence. We stood silently for seventeen minutes to commemorate the seventeen students who died and to take a stand on gun reform. We tied orange ribbons to trees, lampposts, and railings, and placed flowers near trees to send our love to those in pain and hope for a better future. And for every minute of silence, we let a balloon fly into the wind to celebrate that student’s life.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting hit really close to me and my community – a peer of mine in college had even been a student there a few years ago. She and the other walk-out organizers spoke of better gun legislation, self-care, and the power of youth voices. I was moved by how many people left their classes for it, and how many professors showed up too. One of my professors even emailed me and my classmates assuring us that walking out wouldn’t negatively affect our attendance grades. While I was at the protest, I even saw this professor standing alongside students calling for action.
I walked out today because I believe every student who goes to school should feel safe and shielded from violence. This is why students across the country walked out today. At my high school and schools around the country, conversations, protests, and actions were taken to create a better, safer future for students.
The United States has an ugly history of school shootings. Some of the worst being the Columbine High School massacre of April 1999 and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December 2012. Both of these tragedies continued the public conversation around gun-control and gun-ownership in the U.S. While citizens everywhere agree that school shootings are heartbreaking, there are many differing opinions on what legislative action we should be taking. Some – including President Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association (NRA) – believe we should give teachers military-grade training and firearms to protect students. Other lawmakers like Senator Dianne Feinstein of California are calling for increased background checks through fixing the NICS and the banning of bump stocks. This issue is not new. These debates have been going on for decades. But student across the country are changing the narrative.
Students are calling for stricter gun-ownership restrictions. Some demands have included more comprehensive background checks, banning those under the age of 21 from purchasing a firearm, and the banning of “bump-stocks,” which are an accessory to semi-automatic guns that allow them to fire like machine guns.
Today’s national walkout was just one of many events people participate in to end gun violence. You can participate by calling your legislators for better policies surrounding guns and gun ownership. If you have the ability, you can donate to organizations like Everytown, which is actively working to end gun violence through advocacy. Or, you can participate in the March For Our Lives protest that is happening on March 24th in cities around the U.S.
I have always believed that showing up is one of the most important ways to support a cause. Taking time from my day to stand with my peers and professors to call for better legislation and a safer future felt like the right thing to do. And I will keep showing up until the job is done.