Here we are again—another mass shooting, another Seton Connection article on gun violence. As you probably know, on February 14th, 2018—Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day—Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida fell victim to a senseless act of gun violence, with three teachers and fourteen students killed. With the sudden deaths of several innocent people, Americans grieve and offers thoughts and prayers, but many repeat the question they’ve asked for years: what can be done to end this violence? In the Seton Connection’s last article, gun violence was discussed in terms of the frequency and intensity of mass gun violence; specifically, why gun violence has become the “new normal,” why Americans have become almost numb to the terrors of the issue. But now, in light of the student survivors of Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School’s bravery in standing up and shouting out for change, the focus shifts to the youth activists of America: How are students protesting the mass shooting epidemic?
First, look at the facts. It is difficult to account for exactly how many school shootings there have been in America’s history, but one source says that the first known school shooting was way back in 1764, even before the United States became an official country. According to a list compiled by Natalie Hazen, journalist for Ranker.com, “The Enoch Brown Massacre is thought to be the earliest known shooting to occur on school property in what would one day become the United States.” On July 26, 1764, schoolmaster Enoch Brown and about nine of his students fell victim to gun violence. As any form of violence, mass shootings in schools have happened at various times throughout U.S. history, but what motivates many Americans advocating for gun reform is that just since 2013, there have been 291 school shootings, averaging at about one school shooting per week. And what’s worse, just in 2018, there have been 18 reported school shootings, which of course includes the MSD High School shooting in Florida (Cudal). In these school shootings, 438 people have been shot and 138 of those have been killed, says reporter Jugal Patel of The New York Times. These numbers are shocking compared to school gun violence in other countries, as the Amanda Erickson, reporter for The Washington Post and The Chicago Tribune” claims, because “between 2000 and 2010, recorded 57 incidents in 36 countries, and “Half of those incidents — 28 — occurred in the United States.”
These numbers are part of the reason why students are standing up. To have such a frequent number of mass shootings and a frightening number of students and teachers being killed is certainly what gets the student activists started. But there’s so much more to the gun reform movement—referred to by names such as #NeverAgain, which has been trending on Twitter ever since the Parkland school shooting, and March for Our Lives—and it shows why students must be the ones to change the gun debate.
The recent mass shooting fresh in the mind of many Americans, new questions were asked about how students can be kept safe: Should teachers be trained and armed with guns to defend their students? How can security in schools be changed—should schools hire more security guards? Should they invest in high-tech security systems? Will the small budgets schools already have been able to support such changes? Is it just mental health that the nation should focus on to prevent mass shootings? These questions have not yet been fully addressed by legislators, so the youth of America decided to raise their voices to get the nation to keep talking—many determined that it was up to them to advocate for change.
And it was the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that started the change. Devastated at the loss of their close friends and teachers, these students decided that rather than have such tragedy be forgotten by the rest of the country when the next shooting happened, they would use their tragedy as a reason to make change, so that it would never happen again. Soon after the day of the shooting, MSD students took to social media, which they knew young people would be able to connect with and figured would be the first step in getting the movement going, and soon #NeverAgain, the official name of their campaign, was trending on Twitter. The title “Never Again” refers to the movement’s mission to never again let it be possible for a student to be killed while simply trying to get an education, and to try to put a stop to never-ceasing gun violence in general.
#NeverAgain not only sparked up the ongoing gun debate up again, it practically changed it—with the new voices of students added to the mix, the country began to consider just how important it is for change to be made. Seeing the Parkland students speak up in honor of the people they had lost, students across the country were to speak their own opinions on the issue. The Parkland students and parents even spoke at a nationally-televised town hall program (“Stand Up: The Students of Stoneman Douglas Demand Action”) on February 22nd during which they had conversations with National Rifle Association representatives, law enforcement representatives, and Florida’s own government officials in order to discuss what could be done to put an end to gun violence in schools. On March 14th, one month after the terrible incident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, the #NeverAgain movement encouraged students across the country to peacefully protest the resistance against gun reform by walking out of school at 10:00 a.m. for 17 minutes, also honoring the 17 victims of the Parkland shooting. Though many students were reprimanded because of the protest, it didn’t stop tens of thousands of students from using their right to free speech to advocate for change.
And the movement continues. The next national day of protest for this issue was on Saturday, March 24th. Now called “March for Our Lives,” students, parents, and teachers across the country rallied for gun reform in Washington, D.C. and at over 800 sister marches worldwide, including in Cincinnati. According to Jessica Durando of USA Today, an estimated 800,000 people showed up for the March, and that’s just in Washington, D.C.
Whatever side of the gun debate you are on, you must agree that something must be done. Students are standing up, not just because they’re frustrated that the adults who lead the country haven’t been able to change anything yet, but because they also believe—as all should—that there should be absolutely no possibility that they could get shot when they’re simply trying to get an education—and when they’re just trying to enjoy being kids. As this article comes to an end, The Seton Connection leaves you to think about the following excerpt of the mission statement on the “March for Our Lives” website:
“Not one more. We cannot allow one more child to be shot at school. We cannot allow one more teacher to make a choice to jump in front of a firing assault rifle to save the lives of students. We cannot allow one more family to wait for a call or text that never comes. Our schools are unsafe. Our children and teachers are dying. We must make it our top priority to save these lives.
School safety is not a political issue. There cannot be two sides to doing everything in our power to ensure the lives and futures of children who are at risk of dying when they should be learning, playing, and growing. The mission and focus of March For Our Lives is to demand that a comprehensive and effective bill be immediately brought before Congress to address these gun issues. No special interest group, no political agenda is more critical than timely passage of legislation to effectively address the gun violence issues that are rampant in our country.
Every kid in this country now goes to school wondering if this day might be their last. We live in fear.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Change is coming. And it starts now, inspired by and led by the kids who are our hope for the future. Their young voices will be heard.”
Cuddy, Alice. “America’s History of School Shootings.” Euronews, Euronews, 15 Feb. 2018, http://www.euronews.com/2018/02/15/america-s-history-of-school-shootings.
Durando, Jessica. “March for Our Lives Could Be the Biggest Single-Day Protest in D.C.’s History.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 24 Mar. 2018, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2018/03/24/march-our-lives-could-become-biggest-single-day-protest-d-c-nations-history/455675002/.
Erickson, Amanda. “This Is How Common School Shootings Are in America.” Chicagotribune.com, 15 Feb. 2018, http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-america-school-shootings-20180215-story.html.
Hazen, Natalie. “16 School Shootings That Took Place Before Columbine.” Ranker, Wikipedia, 15AD, 2018, http://www.ranker.com/list/scary-school-shootings/natalie-hazen.
“March 24, 2018.” March For Our Lives, marchforourlives.com/.
Merelli, Annalisa. “Dear America, Here’s How Other Countries Stop Mass Shootings.” Quartz, Quartz, 22 Feb. 2018, qz.com/1212809/compare-us-mass-shootings-and-gun-control-to-germany-china-russia-switzerland-and-australia/.
Patel, Jugal K. “After Sandy Hook, More Than 400 People Have Been Shot in Over 200 School Shootings.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 15 Feb. 2018, http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/02/15/us/school-shootings-sandy-hook-parkland.html.