Students Walkout for Change After Parkland Shooting

After Growing Up Around Mass Shootings, Of Course Students Speak Up

(from left to right) Semaj Fielding, Isabel Root, Kennedy Bennett, Samantha Devapiriam, and Keagan Larkins at the walkout on March 14th

(from left to right) Semaj Fielding, Isabel Root, Kennedy Bennett, Samantha Devapiriam, and Keagan Larkins at the walkout on March 14th

(from left to right) Semaj Fielding, Isabel Root, Kennedy Bennett, Samantha Devapiriam, and Keagan Larkins at the walkout on March 14th

Isabel Root, Staff Writer

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Upheld in history textbooks and citizens across the political spectrum, the right and privilege to express ideas freely is a cornerstone of American politics and philosophy. Actions based in civil disobedience, peaceful protest, and benevolent ambition have historically added a glimmer of hope for a better future when change and compromise appeared unattainable. Aligning with this non-partisan concept, the survivors of the Parkland school shooting called on children across the nation to stand up to support them in promoting gun safety. These American children, as our interim Governor would say, are the ‘agenda’ that ‘the left wing’ is using to control America’s kids. With the help of other students of similar political and sympathetic reactions, the national walkout on March 17th was organized by students for students. It served as an voluntary opportunity for Magnet students to raise their voices about gun safety and the subject of gun control, often inherently perceived as partisan and unconstitutional, to be introduced as a discussion of safety rather than a bartering of rights.

I, along with many other students, took advantage of this opportunity to either speak up or remain silent and did so without a misconstrued ‘agenda’ poisoning our independent thought. Unfortunately, some students walked out to miss class, chat with friends, or avoid being held accountable for their opinions. Fortunately, silence is harder to hear than spoken word and it would not amount to anything more than an empty argument if amplified. For those who dissented, they were well in their right. I suspect they too experience partisan bias in an ever polarizing America and yet managed to form an opinion based on their own thinking and environment. There is nothing dishonest about being influenced by individual experience, and you do not necessarily become subject to the control of a political party or interest group that you align with in order to bring about the change you would like to see or lack thereof. Although much of the protest involved the support of gun safety, it was not organized nor the sole message of any political organization. It was from students that wanted to speak up. I personally assisted in planning the walkout and can attest that not once did a politician approach me, call on me, or come to one of our lunch meetings in an attempt to brainwash us. What many politicians can attest to is the gun lobby calling on them or coming to their office in an attempt to bribe them.*

The motivation behind the walkout, the killing of seventeen in a school on top of a disproportionate amount of mass shootings, obviously involves a political sentiment because we are often able to provide safety to citizens through the creation of policy. Some argue that the recent deaths of innocent children, in addition to the yearly average of 35,141 gun violence victims (according to Everytown), are not worth going through the hassle of appropriate policymaking about gun control. This apathy lends to the U.S. making up “5% of the world’s population, but holds 31% of mass shooters” (CNN). While, fortunately, students likelihood of dying in a school is still significantly lower than dying in a car crash, they are innocent lives that had no reason to be lost at the hands of someone holding a legally obtained weapon. The concept of gun control, however, is not just because of children dying unnecessarily, but also the 96 daily gun violence deaths (Everytown). In her speech to Congress and the nation, Emma Gonzalez, a survivor of the Parkland shooting addresses the lack of government action:

“if all our government and President can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it’s time for victims to be the change that we need to see.””

— Emma Gonzalez

This idea of change, particularly when it comes to the Second Amendment, seems to scare many politicians and citizens alike. Contrary to the common misconception of gun control, survivors of shootings and many citizens do not want to take away your handgun or hunting rifle. They want safety, improved background checks that could have stopped shooters like Nick Cruz, a digitalized system for records of gun and ammunition purchases, government funding for research, and perhaps raising the legal age of owning a firearm to the legal age to have a beer. Notice that these are not requirements for firearms, but for the people that pull the trigger. These policy points should not scare honest politicians like it does those funded by the National Rifle Association. Pitting the integrity of the constitution against victims of shootings, several politicians against gun policy create a false image of this debate.

The students of Parkland don’t want this to happen again and called upon politicians for this reason. The primary purpose of the law is to protect those under it, and, as if it’s not evident from the mass shootings that America experiences unlike any other developed country, the law is not fulfilling this mission. That is why we walked out, to make a motion for change.

*Below is a list of the top recipients of money from the gun lobby in the 2016 election cycle (ie. the NRA and the Gun Owner’s Association):

Paul Ryan: $171,977
Ryan Zinke: $79,068
Martha McSally: $77,063
Todd Young: $73,785
Joe Heck: $68,520
Mia Love: $63,350
Kevin McCarthy: $42,000
Will Hurd: $35,850
Kevin Yoder: $34,050
Bruce Poliquin: $32,400
Mike Coffman: $30,843
Ken Calvert: $30,466
Ed Royce: $29,100
Barbara Comstock: $28,407
Scott Tipton:$25,550

The S.C. Representatives:

Mark Sanford: $10,860
Joe Wilson: $9,400
Trey Gowdy: $9,250
Tom Rice: $7,000
Jeff Duncan: $6,500

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