The Kids Are Not Alright: Survivors of Gun Violence Take a Stand
Another day, another mass shooting on United States soil. In 2017, the U.S. saw a total of 346 mass shootings — nearly one mass shooting for each day of the year. 2018 is keeping pace with these figures, with 30 mass shooting as of February 14th, the day of the heartbreaking Douglas High shooting. With 17 dead and dozens injured, the Douglas High shooting is the worst of 2018 — and these Florida kids are fed up.
Four days after the shooting, Twitter user and shooting survivor @isabelchequer responded to an article published in the Bradenton Herald, a Southwestern Florida newspaper. The headline read, “School shooter was volatile, ostracized and 'bullied a lot,' classmates and friends say.” The survivor quickly retorted, posting, “yea okay i was bullied too but he shot me so like what’s ur point.” [sic]
This is not unlike many other social media posts made by survivors since the event. While past shooting survivors were often young enough to have their narratives overridden by anxious parents and mass media, this time we see something unique: adolescents, extremely active on social media, demanding control over their experience, their trauma, and their narrative. Conspiracy theorists claiming that the shooting was faked by actors working for anti-gun groups see their claims subverted by survivors posting videos taken inside the school during the incident. Even Donald Trump has responded to these tireless efforts with a move on banning bump stocks, like the ones used in the Las Vegas massacre last year.
Refusing to be silenced, students from Douglas High have rallied together allies in the South Florida region to hold school-wide walkouts and protests against the lax gun regulations in their state. Over one hundred Parkland students took the opportunity to talk gun control with the state legislature in Tallahassee, where many chanted “vote them out” in the hallways of the state Capitol building. Survivors have also organized the “March for Our Lives”, set to take place in Washington D.C. on March 24th, while protests continue across the United States. (For those interested in signing up to march, donating or buying merchandise to support the cause, their website can be found at www.marchforourlives.com). Additional school walkouts are set to take place on March 14th for a duration of 17 minutes (one minute for each victim of the shooting) and April 20th (on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting). Contact information of congressional members is being spread, along with petitions and GoFundMe links. These kids are actively involved in state politics, and are notably close to voting age. Would it be excessively eager to wonder if this is the great élément déclencheur to finally bring gun control to the U.S.?
Even Hollywood has taken to supporting the students in their quest for gun control, with George and Amal Clooney donating half a million dollars, and both Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg matching that donation for a total of 1.5 million dollars going towards the cause. Those speaking out in solidarity include Kim Kardashian, Tyra Banks, Julianne Moore, Jimmy Kimmel, Ellen DeGeneres, Mark Ruffalo, Stephen King, and countless more each day. While we may only be hearing the beginning of a mounting crescendo, many are struck with an eerie, but empowering feeling that this time things are going to be different.
Here is what the survivors have to say:
“We are going to be the kids you read about in textbooks… Because we are going to be the last mass shooting… We are going to change the law.” – Emma Gonzalez at a gun control rally in Fort Lauderdale.
“To elected officials, I say this: Don’t lie to us. Don’t make any false promises, because when you do, children die.” – David Hogg on CBS Sunday Morning.
“This is why we need gun control. How did he get a rifle? How did he get a rifle like that? This keeps happening, obviously nothing we are doing is working; obviously we need to do something different, and obviously it needs to be gun control.” – Jordyn Laudanno to PEOPLE Magazine.
“I think it’s great that they’re saying ‘thoughts and prayers,’ but it doesn’t do anything. And after every single shooting, that’s what they say over and over again, but nothing ever changes. It has to be political because this happened because of guns. This happened because of the relaxed gun laws that we have.” – Carly Novell to Time Magazine.
“The fact that we even have to do this is appalling. Our job is to go to school, learn, and not take a bullet… Your job is to protect us, and our blood is on your hands.” – Cameron Kasky to Senator Marco Rubio on Face the Nation.