It’s now been just over a year since the day of the Parkland, Fla. shooting, in which 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were killed by a gunman. While these students can never be replaced, their fellow classmates took saw this moment as an inflection point in our nation's history, choosing to take action and try to ensure that no other student has to suffer such a tragic fate.
As a movement, March For Our Lives was truly the first of its kind. Children from middle school and up across the nation confronted lawmakers for their inaction and demanded common-sense gun control. We commend these students and their efforts to call attention to the crisis of gun violence in America.
As student journalists, we at The Michigan Daily feel a special connection to the young people who have continuously updated SinceParkland.org — a website run by teens that fastidiously documents the horrible and far too common incidence of young lives taken too soon by firearms. In an exemplary display of journalism done right, these young reporters seek to humanize — rather than simply empiricize — the deaths of those their age. These activists are deserving of our utmost respect and gratitude as their impact on the national discourse regarding this contentious “wedge” issue has been immeasurable.
As a unit, these youth activists have seen gains made in the wake of their tireless work. For example, a majority of Republicans — whose policies lean favorably toward the gun lobby — now support raising the legal gun-buying age to 21 from 18. On the legislative side, we saw an NRA-endorsed Republican administration ban “bumpstocks,” a move that coincides with point number five on the March For Our Lives policy agenda: “Limit firing power on the streets.” Furthermore, a day before the one-year anniversary of the Parkland shooting, House Democrats backed a bill that would require background checks for all sales and transfers of guns — a policy that 92 percent of Americans support. The significance of these gains should not be understated and they are far from the only ones.
At the same time, however, we still have great strides to make. Since Parkland, more than 1,200 children have been killed in acts of gun violence throughout the country. This should galvanize the nation to advocate even more fiercely for legislative change.
While the proverbial gears have been turning and things seem to be trending in the right direction, most of the legislation that has actually been passed and implemented since the tragedy has been fairly cosmetic and fails to bring about the sweeping fundamental changes needed to beat back the rising tide of gun violence. We urge legislators to properly uphold their duty to serve their constituents. Part of doing so requires that they take substantive action on the issue of gun control in order to ensure safety for all, so that no child has to feel scared while pursuing an education.
Regrettably, the movement for increased gun control has, historically, been far more reactive than proactive. We see a groundswell of support for these measures in the immediate aftermath of these mass shootings, only to see said support subsequently begin to wane until it eventually returns to its baseline. This is in spite of the fact that mass shootings in this country occur on a daily basis. We simply cannot afford to succumb to complacency. Sustained collective action is what is needed to inspire change.
We also would like to take this time to condemn those voices on the far-right who attacked the heroism of the March For Our Lives activists. Disinformation agents, such as radio host Alex Jones, spread malicious conspiracy theories meant to turn the public against the movement. Jones even went so far as to claim that the Parkland students who spoke up about the trauma of being forced to endure the sudden loss of 17 of their fellow schoolmates were crisis actors and that the shooting itself was just one big “deep state false flag operation.” Fox News host Laura Ingraham and former Milwaukee Sheriff David Clark also chimed in with their regularly scheduled programming of hate and vitriol, going on-air to target survivors such as student David Hogg.
These public figures consciously attempted to manipulate the narrative to paint honest, well-intentioned student activists as the bad actors. Such malevolence not only poisons our media ecosystem, but it also discourages future student activism of all kinds as people fear becoming the victims of targeted attacks.
We remember the lives of the students killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as well as every victim of all mass shootings before and since. We will continue forward with optimism, as we look to activists, journalists and everyday citizens alike to continue calling attention to gun violence. We also hope that those in political office will be receptive to the demands of such broad swaths of the population, and enact the policies that will facilitate the positive changes we wish to see.