Wednesday marks one month since 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and killed 17 people, mostly students, with an AR-15 rifle that he had purchased legally one year prior. The shooting was the largest of its kind since 2012, when 26 people (20 of whom were young children) were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary.
Ever since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, mass school shootings in America have become a national epidemic. It wasn't until the Parkland massacre last month, however, that a student-led movement demanding the government enforce stricter gun control laws swept the nation. Survivors of the Parkland shooting jolted the nation in the days following the attack as they told lawmakers to keep their thoughts and prayers to themselves unless they planned to support them with direct action in support of gun control.
On the one month anniversary of the Parkland shooting, students across the US are planning to walkout of school in support of the victims and survivors of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and to demand that the government take legislative action.
We spoke to students about why they are walking out and what they want to see changed.
"At every point in our education, we’re told that our classes are 'preparing us for real life,' yet once we enter the school building, there’s a fundamental gap. Politics are all around us, but we’re barred from participating at risk of deviating from the curriculum. School is important, yes, but how can we influence anything if we don’t understand the critical issues that will shape our generation? We’ve watched students get murdered by guns for too long — at the hands of police and at the hands of other students. This is preventable, and it’s necessary to participate in these rebellions despite the threat of ‘disciplinary measures.' The lack of gun control disproportionately impacts teenagers, and I’m working with my friends to organize our school’s walkout because I believe that every time radical teens band together nationwide, co-opting social media and causing trouble, we prove our credibility and capability and we catalyze change."
"I’m walking out because I refuse to offer empathy without any action to follow it. I will stand with the victims of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and use my voice as a student to make change. I will not let this be brushed aside, and I will not stop until my country’s gun control policy is reformed."
"I’m walking out because I’m tired. I’m tired of watching the news only to hear more and more of my peers are dying off from senseless shootings. I’m tired of going on social media to see videos of the unconscious bodies of children with blood covering the ground of their schools which appear all too familiar to mine. I’m tired of our government officials providing solely their condolences but no legislation to prevent future mass tragedies from occurring. I’m tired of all of the pain. I’m walking out because it is my right and duty to protest to spread the message that something must be done, whether that is implementing more safety measures at schools, passing laws that make obtaining guns more difficult, or banning guns altogether, we simply cannot standby and wait for others to act. I am walking out because I have to."
"I am walking out because students taking action can end complacency in the conversation surrounding gun violence, especially when the ubiquity of stories surrounding gun violence on the news can easily numb the public to these afflictions. I am walking out for the stories of communities and individuals affected by gun violence that do not receive coverage, those who have to return home to empty bedrooms, and those who have to return to school to empty desks."
"I'm walking out because I believe there needs to be a change in the way our schools and country handles guns. NO more innocent children and teachers should have to die because of the lack of safety and control revolving guns. I'm walking out to give a voice to those whose voices were silenced."
"I'm walking out because I want to demonstrate that student voice overrules any other voice. Also, I’m walking out for all the folks of color that don’t want to see any more gun violence."
"I’m participating in the school walk out to show my support for and help the students of Douglas High School who are fighting for stricter gun laws. There needs to be an end to the corrupt politics that is fueled by the NRA. That is why I am walking out. No one should have to go to school afraid that they will die. The rest of the world already has strict gun laws and all I am asking is to make it more difficult for a deranged person to buy a murderous weapon. That shouldn’t be something that students have to fight for."
"Why should I worry about being shot while sitting in pre-calc? Why should I be shopping for a bullet-proof backpack? Why should my fate be dictated by corporate and political greed? We’re generation Z. We believe we can, so we will. And we vote next. I’m walking out because I am change."
"Since the image of 20 child-sized coffins did not spur action after the Newtown, Connecticut, massacre, we as young people must wonder: How can we make sure that 14 more from Parkland, Florida, will be enough to move adults to act? By walking out of school, we are linking the fact that America makes it abnormally easy to access military-style weapons to the fact that we have an abnormal epidemic of gun violence.
We are disrupting our daily routine to denormalize a numbing cycle of tragedy –– one that includes not just mass shootings like the one at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but also everyday domestic violence and suicides and homicides. Yet we must make sure that the headline-grabbing energy of the walkouts is just the beginning. Following the walkouts, Coalition Z — a youth civic organization that I cofounded — is bringing together hundreds of New York City students to build the infrastructure for a sustained student-led gun sense movement. At our 'Evening of Action,' we’re planning to contact our representatives, hear from leading gun control activists, and develop the skills and relationships we need for the long-term. I’m walking out to make sure that Parkland truly does mean #NeverAgain and to help translate my generation’s passion into concrete action."
"I'm walking out because I strongly believe that the voices of my generation are the most relevant to politics today; it's our lives that are being threatened by the lack of gun control in America and it's our future that is being affected by Congress' apathy. This movement is about ending gun violence in our country, but as our politicians continue to ignore what we have to say, it has also become a movement about ensuring that the voices of this generation are ignored no longer. I'm walking out because my voice matters and my life matters, and I'm confident that the activism of my generation is what will finally lead to the change that this country needs."
"I am walking out because I want to honor all of the students that passed away in the tragic shooting in Florida. They might have gotten their voice taken away, but I still have mine."