Mass shootings keep happening at alarming rates, and while it used to be the parents who would take to the airwaves to protest on their children's behalf, we're in a new era. Now it's the teenagers who are taking a stand for themselves, seizing the mics and the means for protest and speaking directly to the impact of guns on their lives and safety in unprecedented fashion.
After last week's tragic shooting in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, wherein 14 students and three teachers were killed, young people organized protests in front of the White House on President's Day, and on a more local scale across the nation. Their target: the National Rifle Association, Congress, the White House, and the nation's hearts and minds.
The White House protest was organized by a group called Teens For Gun Reform, founded by two D.C. teens in the wake of the Parkland shooting. Using Facebook, the group initially sought 17 people to stage lay down in front of the White House for three minutes, reflecting the amount of time the gunman took to execute his shooting and the number of lives lost. Hundreds wound up coming, including Democratic Virginia Congressman Don Beyer.
"The two of us have organized this protest in solidarity with all of those who were affected by the tragic school shooting in Florida last week," teen organizers Eleanor Nuechterlein and Whitney Bowen said in a statement. "We call on our national and state legislatures to finally act responsibly and reduce the number of these tragic incidents. It's essential that we all feel safe in our classrooms."
Others groups have been similarly inspired to take action after this, the eighth shooting in a U.S. middle or high school this year.
There's the #Enough School Walkout, scheduled for March 14th, which is exactly one month after the shooting and calls for students and teachers to walk out of their classes at 10AM local time for 17 minutes, in memory of the number of lives lost in Parkland. #Enough started as a Facebook event and launched the youth division of the Women's March, another example of the social media fomenting grassroots movements.
Students who survived the Florida shooting have organized a D.C. protest as well. Set for March 24th, the March For Our Lives is calling for immediate action in Congress. Parkland students also plan to protest at the Florida state capitol in Tallahassee this Wednesday. And then there was Saturday's gun control rally, where Parkland student Emma Gonzalez delivered an impassioned speech that quickly went viral:
"We are going to be the kids you read about in textbooks. Not because we're going to be another statistic about mass shooting in America … we are going to be the last mass shooting," she said in front of a federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She then ripped into the N.R.A.:
"If the President wants to come up to me and tell me to my face that it was a terrible tragedy and how it should never have happened and maintain telling us how nothing is going to be done about it, I'm going to happily ask him how much money he received from the National Rifle Association. You want to know something? It doesn't matter, because I already know. $30 million."
"To every politician who is taking donations from the NRA, shame on you," she added.
And Parkland student David Hogg addressed the President directly on CBS's Face The Nation: "We've seen a government shutdown, we've seen tax reform, but nothing to save our children's lives. Are you kidding me? You think now is the time to focus on the past and not the future to prevent the deaths of thousands of other children? You sicken me."
For his part, the President used the aftermath to make a tenuous connection between the tragedy and the Russia probe.
Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign - there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 18, 2018
Which is to say, the President took a moment that should have been about the 17 lives lost, and turned it into a discussion about the one he talks about the most: himself.