Following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the country found itself in the middle of a tug of war between student activists and legislators at all levels of government. By then, we’d had enough. In May 2018, the United States had faced its 22nd school shooting of the year alone as ten people were murdered in Santa Fe High School. Not even three months later, two Florida high schools had shootings at their school football games. And, less than a week after that, another shooting took place in the same city in the middle of a video game tournament. The dates of all these school shootings soon became days of nationwide protests, and at every march, walkout, and die-in alike, there was one ubiquitous chant: “Vote. Them. Out.”
Indeed, young organizers everywhere have now focused on the power of the polls and the ballot. The March For Our Lives organizers pushed for more students to run their own voter registration drives, and prompted over 1000 schools to get actively involved. One nonprofit organization, HeadCount, registered nearly 5,000 students across the country in a single day in March. That number doesn’t even include the efforts of organizations such as the League of Women Voters or the efforts of local Supervisor of Election Offices, who’ve also registered hundreds of new voters in their respective districts.
State legislation was passed across the country in an attempt to remedy the problem as well. In Nebraska, Florida, Vermont, and Washington, bans on the sale and possession of bump stocks were made and implemented relatively quickly. Florida passed a bill in March that raised the age to purchase a gun and required a three day waiting period for firearms to be purchased – the first case of gun reform in the state in over two decades. Vermont’s own comprehensive bill, which banned bump stocks, limited rifle magazines to 10 rounds, required all gun transactions to be facilitated by a licensed dealer, and raised the purchase age to 21, was another example one of legislation passed in response to the Parkland shooting.
While these were impressive gains, they only lasted a few moments. The rest of the country has yet to pass bills like the ones in Florida and Vermont. But beyond die-Ins and walkouts, what else can be done?
Although it doesn’t always reach the headlines of television screens across America, local activism that makes success possible. Volunteering for local campaigns for both midterm and presidential cycle elections, organizing voter registration drives, and calling or writing to your representatives about the bills you want them to pass is the biggest way you can enact change and ensure that gun reform is affected. Moreover, your engagement would ensure that the bills being reintroduced in Congress right now actually get passed. Since Parkland, the Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act of 2013 was brought back to the floor, which would make gun trafficking – or the practice of illegally purchasing firearms for someone else – a federal crime for the first time. The Protecting Responsible Gun Sellers Act of 2013 bill would mandate background checks on all gun sales, private or commercial.
Much has been done since Parkland, but successful movements don’t occur overnight. In every city, county, and state there needs to be action. We’ve waited far too long for the end of the mass gun violence epidemic in America. The bright young faces of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School helped inspire students to take to the streets in protest. But today, the rest of us must do our part by inspiring as many as possible to take to the polls both now, and in the future.