#ENOUGH with Gun Violence: National School Walkout Day
February 14th is considered to be the day of love on a global scale, but Valentine’s Day 2018 concluded with a gruesome massacre for the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The 19 year old murderer, Nikolas Cruz, claimed the lives of 17 people by using an assault rifle. Since the gunman was a former student, he was able to strategically plan the attack by pulling the fire alarm before dismissal and shooting at teenagers crowding the hallway.
It should be noted that Cruz previously made violent threats against the school, which he was promptly expelled for. According to the New York Times, the Baker Act in Florida allows a person to be involuntarily institutionalized for questionable behavior. However, authorities determined that Cruz’s threats were low-risk and he wasn’t committed to a psychiatric facility as a result. Due to this, the school shooter easily passed his background check and legally obtained the AR-15 he used to commit this heinous act.
The event ignited the survivors of the tragedy to share their traumatic experience and advocate for gun control. After the shooting, a group of students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School founded Never Again MSD, an organization fighting to increase regulation to prevent gun violence. However, they soon became targets of victim blaming from politicians and members of the National Rifle Association. Despite the opposition they faced, the group was successful in raising the minimum age to purchase a gun in Florida from 18 to 21.
In the weeks following the massacre, more people united with the survivors in supporting their cause. On March 14th, which marked the one month anniversary of the shooting, thousands of students across the United States participated in #ENOUGH National School Walkout Day to call for gun regulation. Students from all of the nation’s time-zones left their classrooms at 10 a.m for 17 minutes to honor the 17 victims.
The idea of a country wide walkout was introduced by the Women’s March Youth organization. They empowered high school students from all over the nation to peacefully protest and demand Congress to take action to protect the youth from gun violence in school. According to the Women’s March Network, “Students and staff have the right to teach and learn in an environment free from the worry of being gunned down in their classrooms or on their way home from school.”
Queens High School for the Sciences in New York City is among the many schools that took part in the national walkout. Around 400 students left their classroom holding posters and requesting the government to take action against school shootings. Husna Mirza, a junior at the school, wore a shirt depicting 17 bullet holes to commemorate the lives lost at the Florida high school.
“I am immensely proud of the students of QHSS and the action they are taking to combat the issue of gun violence. We stand together with the thousands of students across the nation, and we stand together to create the change we need to see in America.” Commented Ashley Bisram, a senior who coordinated the walkout at this high school. “As students, with some of us like myself being able to vote later this year, we need to take full advantage of our rights in our democracy.”
A few blocks away at Hillcrest High School, sophomore Sadia Wahid participated in the walkout with 3000 of her peers. “It was uplifting to know that our generation united to stand up for our beliefs and support the students at Parkland, Florida.” Sadia states.
In response to the school walkouts, many people and government officials criticized the students for expressing their view on gun control. They insist that those who are protesting are just children who don’t understand politics. Moreover, some students carried on with the walkout despite facing opposition from their school’s administration. As a result, they were subjected disciplinary consequences.
Although many students have yet to gain voting rights, it does not mean that they shouldn’t be able express their voice in the gun control debate. Students are directly impacted by school shootings so it makes sense to consider what they’re saying. Kids are the ones losing their lives. They have the right to demand change without being bullied by adults.The fight for gun control won’t end with the walkout as there are several more planned for the year. The gravity of the National School Walkout affirms that there is power in unity and you don’t have to be a certain age to take action.