This morning, at 10am, I joined high school students across the nation in a walkout in solidarity with students from the Parkland shooting, and a call to congress for stricter gun laws.
The entire period, there was an anxious buzz surrounding the elephant in the room, which my teacher pretended to ignore as she continued onward through her lesson plan. As the clock struck 10am, my physics class stood up, and proceeded to exit the classroom. Students flooded the hallways, excited to use their voice to promote a change that could save countless lives. As students under the voting age, we often feel as though our voices don't matter. It feels as though we have no control in our own lives, which can be especially frustrating in the current political climate. Yet, voting is not the only way to make your voice heard.
We exited the building, bundled up in winter coats and hats, ready to brace the blistering cold for a cause as important as this. An endless stream of students walked through the ice and snow to convene at the track, where students held signs displaying our anger and sadness. With voices raised and chanting abundant, we marched around the track. There were no teachers directing our every movement. This was a march organized by students and students alone, because we are the ones impacted the most by this issue. As students, gun legislation directly affects us. I don't want to fear for my life every time I go to school. Every child deserves to feel safe, happy, and secure when they are getting an education.
One poster that shook me to my core boldly stated, "We will lose 17 minutes of our school day for the 17 students killed in the Parkland shooting, because they lost the rest of their lives." I could make up the half hour of physics notes I was missing. The students of Parkland, Columbine, and Sandy Hook, could not. These shootings are only the most infamous, but let’s not forget the 21 shootings that have already taken place so far this year alone, and the more than 60 mass school shootings from 2017. This is not normal. This is not a people problem, this is not a mental illness problem, this is a gun problem.
After we marched along the track, we listened to our student leaders give speeches. Our demands to law makers remain as follows:
- We do not want to fear for our lives when we go to school.
- Ban assault weapons.
- Require universal background checks and close the gun show loophole.
- Allow courts to disarm people displaying signs of violence or instability.
Most of us are yet to turn 18, but we will not wait for lawmakers to decide our fate. We will continue to protest, call our representatives, write letters, and do anything in our power to prevent another death from gun violence at school. We will not sit idly by as innocent, young lives are lost to senseless, preventable violence.
For those of you that read this and also cannot bare to remain silent, use the app Capital Call. It allows you to call your congressman or woman and gives you an easy template to follow on the issues you are most passionate about.
As I stood among thousands of my peers across the nation, I felt empowered to do the right thing: use my voice to create change. We did not organize this walk out because we wanted to miss class, or because we wanted to go outside, we did this because we want to feel safe at school. We did this because we want to bring justice to our peers who have lost their lives to preventable violence. Students have a voice, and if adults decide to bicker and squabble like children, then us children will have to create the change that adults are unable, or unwilling, to make.
Gun laws have become a polarizing, partisan issue. But we have forgotten the people guns really impact. It is not lobbyists or the NRA or hunters, it is the countless souls who have lost their lives simply by going to school. There is no place for party ideology in the gun debate. The only debate is whether or not we want to endanger students across the nation every, single day.