53 lives have been directly and physically affected by school shootings a month and a half into the new year of 2018.
33 have been injured while 20 lie dead.
Communities are shattered, hearts are broken.
As per every shooting, we run through the usual schedule led by thoughts and prayers from the whole political spectrum.
When gun control laws and regulations are brought to light, we are told to move on. That it is too difficult and that it is not the right time to discuss such measures.
The latest mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has students across the country speaking out and showing politicians that it is time to break the sympathy cycle: that we need change, that we need action.
Senior Emma Gonzalez of Stoneman Douglas addressed a gun control rally on Feb. 17 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida just three days after the shooting had occurred.
In her speech, she passionately and relentlessly called out the National Rifle Association (NRA) and President of the United States, Donald Trump, for their “BS.”
“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… I’m going to happily ask him how much money he received from the National Rifle Association… It doesn’t matter because I already know,” Gonzalez said. “$30 million.”
“[$30 million] divided by the number of gunshot victims in the United States in the one and one-half months in 2018 alone, that comes out to being $5,800,” Gonzalez said. “If you don’t do anything to prevent this from continuing to occur, that number of gunshot victims will go up and the number that they are worth will go down, and we will be worthless to you.”
While these teens in Parkland continue to rise up in the news, the conspiracy theories from those who tend to lean conservative have increased.
Former Sheriff David Clark alleged that the demand for gun control by Parkland students is secretly organized by George Soros.
Others have claimed these students are hired crisis actors traveling the country to pose as survivors of multitudinous massacres in order to advance a secret political agenda.
There is even a claim that since Stoneman Douglas survivor and activist David Hogg’s father is a retired FBI agent, that the whole attack was an FBI-led plot where he was fed anti-Trump lines to give news outlets.
Truth is, this is as real a tragedy as real can get.
These incredible students have worked hard to prepare and research for their appearances.
These students are allowed to have opinions. They should not be shut down by the right claiming them to be staged and fake.
“[Politicians say] that us kids don’t know what we’re talking about [and] that we’re too young to understand how the government works,” Gonzalez said. “We call BS.”
Exactly one week after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, news outlet CNN held a town hall in Sunrise, Florida. Here, students, parents, and teachers were able to ask questions to Florida State Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, Florida State Rep. Ted Deutch, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, and NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch.
Each elected leader had their chance to give a direct message to those affected by this massacre. A common theme of wanting change appearing throughout each short speech before the discussion was opened to those in attendance.
“Senator Rubio, I just listened to your opening and thank you,” Fred Guttenberg, father of 14-year-old victim Jaime Guttenberg, said. “I want to like you. Here’s the problem… When I like you, you know it and when I’m pissed at you, you know it. Your comments this week and those of our president have been pathetically weak.”
Guttenberg said this in response to Sen. Marco Rubio’s warning that we should not jump to conclusions because, according to him, there may not have been a law available to prevent the Parkland shooting. This was also in response to Trump not offering a clear way he was going to try to do anything regarding the shooting besides the tried and true thoughts and prayers.
“Look at me, and tell me guns were the factor in the hunting of our kids in the school this week,” Guttenberg said. “Look at me and tell me you’ll accept it, and you will work with us to do something about guns.”
The CNN town hall was a chance for the community of Parkland to express what they want for gun control reform. Many, if not all, are taking the stance that semi-automatic weapons should be banned and made illegal.
Junior Cameron Kasky is a recognizable member of the student activists of Stoneman Douglas and became even more well-known after asking Sen. Rubio the question that had been burning through everyone’s minds.
“Senator Rubio, it’s hard to look at you and not look down a barrel of an AR-15 and not look at Nicholas Cruz, but the point is you’re here, and there are some people who are not,” Kasky said.
“And guys, look, this isn’t about red and blue,” Kasky said. “We can’t boo people because they’re Democrats and boo people because they’re Republicans…This is about people who are making a difference to save us and people who are against it and prefer money. So Senator Rubio, can you tell me right now that you will not accept a single donation from the NRA in the future?”
The crowd erupted into applause and it was hard to not cheer along at home.
Sen. Rubio stumbled through an attempted explanation as to how the NRA was buying into his beliefs and not him begging for money from them.
But the NRA would not give Sen. Rubio over $1 million in 2016 solely for a reelection effort if his beliefs did not coincide with theirs.
Prior to the arrival of NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch to the town hall stage, freshman Michelle Lapido was given the chance to ask a question for Sen. Nelson. But before she addressed him, she called out Loesch by name, demanding to know if the vast access to guns was worth the lives lost at Lapido’s school.
“So I had a question for Ms. Loesch, but she’s not here yet, so for her and the NRA and all of you puppet politicians that they are backing, was the blood of my classmates and my teachers worth your blood money?” Lapido said.
In a country where we, unfortunately, have as many mass shootings as we do, certain drills like code red and active shooter drills have become normal for American schools. This should not be the case.
“When I was in fifth grade, I had to hide in a bathroom for three hours… just because a shooter has come to our town, not even in the school itself,” senior Ryan Deitsch of Stoneman Douglas said.
“Now, seven years later, I’m in a closet with 19 other kids, waiting, fearing for my own life,” Deitsch said. “Now I’d like to ask you that, after me and several others have been going out of their way… speaking out… why do we have to be the ones to do this? Why do we have to speak out to the capital? Why do we have to march on Washington just to save innocent lives?”
In discussing gun control in the United States, it is impossible not to come across someone who will refute reform by bringing up the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The Second Amendment, written in 1789, directly states that “a well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
Diane Wolf Rogers, who is an AP World History teacher at Stoneman Douglas, made sure to ask Loesch directly what she thought of the exact wording of the amendment.
“What is your definition of a “well-regulated” militia, as stated in the Second Amendment?” Rogers said. “Using supporting detail, explain to me how an 18-year-old with a military rifle is well-regulated. And the world — our country, our nation — is gonna grade your answer.”
Before Loesch gave an expectedly unsatisfying answer to Rogers’ question, Emma Gonzalez had the opportunity to ask Loesch if she believed that it should bemore difficult for people to obtain semi-automatic weapons and modifications available in order to make them fully automatic like bump stocks.
Loesch dodged the question, deflecting it onto the Department of Justice (DOJ) when Gonzalez further pressed for Loesch’s own opinion.
Sheriff Israel interjected at the end of her statement in order to reveal his thoughts on what she had said.
“I understand you’re standing up [for] the NRA, and I understand that’s what you’re supposed to do,” Israel said. “But, you just told this group of people that you are standing up for them. You’re not standing up for them until you say I want fewer weapons.”
As the town hall wrapped up that night while Twitter was abuzz, it is extremely vital to remember the reason this all happened.
An 19-year-old had access to semi-automatic firearms which granted him the ability to murder 17 innocent lives.
We, the United States, must move towards a solution. We must follow in other countries’ footsteps.
If action does not take place, the bright future wished for this generation will crumble.
We need change now. We demand it. We demand you listen to us, the students.
We the students are the future.
“The only source of any grieving that I can do at this point is just to keep fighting,” Hogg said. “I have to. There’s no way I can stop, because I don’t want anybody else to die from this. If I don’t take action because our stupid politicians won’t, more are going to die.”