High school students protest for gun law reform via Wikipedia Commons
The anti-gun violence movement, which has gained a lot of attention because of the March 14 and 24 demonstrations, is entering a new phase on April 20. Commemorating the 19th anniversary of the April 1999 Columbine High School shooting, when twelve students and a teacher were fatally shot, four students from Ridgefield High School are calling upon us to participate in the #NationalSchoolWalkout.
Riled by the complacency and inaction that typically follows school shootings, the students started a petition that has garnered 2.5 million signatures. Their website states a three part-goal for the movement: holding elected representatives accountable, promoting solutions to gun violence, and engaging students in the political system.
Until the tragedy at Parkland, the Columbine massacre was the deadliest high school shooting in American history, and changed police response to mass shootings and active shooters. Capitalizing on the momentum of the #Enough and #NeverAgain movements, the marchers this Friday aim to honor the thirteen victims of Columbine with thirteen seconds of silence, calling upon their representatives for stricter gun laws and getting people to register to vote. As they state, “This movement formed in the aftermath of the shooting in Parkland, Florida. Three weeks ago, the National School Walkout wasn’t so much as an idea, but today we are hundreds of thousands strong.” The students chose the date to draw attention to the Columbine tragedy and to further highlight how little has changed in the nineteen years since its occurrence.
The students are asking supporters to disrupt their normal schedules to draw public attention to and increase participation in the 2,741 walkouts registered across the nation, with at least one in each state. Organized in a “rolling start” manner, the event starts at 10 a.m local time from east coast to west coast, and is intended to last throughout the day. Lane Murdock, the architect of the walkout, is calling on supporters to wear orange for the day. Her team of student organizers call on supporters to show up at their nearest rally and protest for a cause that has snuffed the dreams out of many before they could vote.
Showing up 1.5 – 2 million strong at rallies held in Washington, D.C. and other cities, the #MarchforOurLives supporters prompted lawmakers to take up gun control legislation in multiple states. While there has not been sufficient response from the federal government, some states, like Florida, defied the National Rifle Association by passing a bill that – amongst other provisions – raised the age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21 and extended the waiting period to three days. This is especially significant in light of the Association’s growing monetary influence and lobbying power.
Further, the spending bill which President Donald Trump signed in March, granted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the authority to conduct research on the causes of gun violence yet fell short of providing funding, and stifled any tangible progress. Thus, to help continue the conversation they fostered and gather more support, the young minds behind #MarchforOurLives are now endorsing the April 20th walkout.
One of the speeches at the rally in Washington, D.C, drove the point of gun violence closer to home. Edna Chavez from South Los Angeles delivered an impassioned speech recounting her experience with gunfire, stating “I learned how to duck from bullets before I learned how to read,” and mentioned that her brother had died due to gun violence. The southside of Los Angeles is known for its volatility, its relations with police brutality, the prevalence of guns, and the harm resulting from government policies that fail to mentor youth. This disproportionately affects people of color, since South Los Angeles primarily comprises of African-American and Latinx folks. Students in this area have often been left to fend for themselves, many getting accustomed to the sight of a gun.
People of Los Angeles, California, the United States, and the high school students of Ridgefield are asking you to harken to their calls to create solutions to gun violence in schools this April 20th. They implore you to spread the word, protest with them, and more importantly, vote for the right candidates. The epidemic of violent gun shootings has engulfed several lives and the high schoolers of today won’t remain quiet. The midterm elections are around the corner, so, if you can do so, join them this Friday as they continue to remind Congress where its loyalty must lie.