Parkland Two Years Later
February 14th marked the second anniversary of the horrific mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. that left 17 students and staff dead.
After one of the deadliest shootings in American history, many of the survivors vowed to not have their friends’ lives be lost in vain, and so, from the ashes, the March for Our Lives movement was born. And since the shooting in Parkland, student activism, in general, has exploded, with political involvement being one of the primary methods.
A month after the shooting, Maine West students organized a walkout in memory of the 17 students who lost their lives in Parkland and as a peaceful protest against gun violence. Nationally, students at thousands of schools marched out of their classes at 10 a.m. as part of nationwide protests.
The problem of American school shootings is acute. The United States has had 57 times as many school shootings as all of the other major industrialized nations combined, according to data compiled by CNN.
Many current juniors and seniors remember lining up along Wolf road and holding up signs during the 2018 protests or giving impassioned speeches calling for more comprehensive gun legislation to address the rate of gun violence.
For Elizabeth Sofinet, class of ‘18 and one of the seniors involved with the walkout, the shooting in Parkland epitomized why students and young people need to become more involved in politics. “We wanted our generation to take action regarding gun legislation, because if we were old enough for our lives to be at stake, we are old enough to speak up, and be heard,” Sofinet said of the 2018 walkout.
The gun homicide rate in the United States remains 25 times that of other high-income countries, according to a report published last year in the research journal Preventative Medicine, and students believe laws need to change to limit the risk of gun violence in America.
In fact, only 13 percent of students think current gun legislation in America protects people, according to a Westerner survey of 144 students.
Since 2018, there have been many new proposals discussed to try to eliminate the tragedy of school shootings. These proposals have ranged from mandated see-through backpacks to educating and arming teachers in the case of an active shooter.
While these measures largely provide counter-shooting precautions, many have advocated for more direct ways to prevent shootings. Everytown, a group started by parents devoted to increasing gun control in America, has launched a campaign in several states demanding stricter gun control measures, including increased background checks and restrictions on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. The ads directly confront lawmakers, putting the blame on their lack of action. One ad in North Carolina reads “1,300 North Carolinians are shot and killed every year. North Carolina lawmakers, you are ON NOTICE.”
As far as federal-level legislation has gone, the issue remains just as stagnant as state-wide efforts to make a decisive conclusion on where America stands on the issue.
While the Trump Administration placed a ban on bump stocks, an attachment that increases the rate at which a gun can fire ammunition, in March of 2019, the president has in many ways stayed true to his conservative roots, favoring the National Rifle Association’s lobbying efforts.
The conflict regarding gun control has remained in the political spotlight, and while those in support of gun control have not quieted, neither have those who contend that it remains their constitutional right to be armed. 2020 began with a rally in Virginia objecting to legislation proposed by the state’s congress that would put stricter laws on firearms and firearm sales. Several thousand gun-toting protestors marched onto the Virginia capitol, carrying signs with the phrases “Come and Take It” or “We will not Comply.”
These changes in policy have come out of a Democrat-controlled state legislature — a political idiosyncrasy in a historically Republican state.
The legislature proposed and has since passed, many of these bills. The establishment of red-flag laws makes it easier for state officials to confiscate weapons of individuals that are deemed a threat to others or themselves, as well as creating limits of one gun purchase per month are a few among these.
While restrictions on the possession of larger firearms tend to be less controversial, many Americans believe in the power of guns as a form of protection and members of both political parties remain committed to keeping many gun purchases legal.
Regardless of where one falls on the political spectrum, there is no denying the importance of the ability to express that position. One of the leaders of the West walkout, Ahtziri Alviso, class of ‘18, said, “I think that the most important thing we wanted to achieve was to show students and young people in general that we should not be afraid to speak our minds and defend what we believe in. No matter what race, religion, sexual orientation, creed, and gender, we are all human beings and we deserve to be heard.”
Without young voices being heard, some feel that some in the political world doesn’t understand or care about the urgency of the problem of gun violence. “I think we can get differing views with younger people in [politics],” Schacke said.