Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., still reeling from last week’s shooting that took the lives of 17 people, have channeled their grief into political action.
Some students and Parkland community members have used social media — particularly Twitter — as an outlet to amplify their voices, calling for politicians to make meaningful changes in U.S. gun-control laws.
my only words. pic.twitter.com/5ICqoGrybl
— alyssa (@alysgoldfarb) February 16, 2018
My daughter was brutally murdered in a mass school shooting. What makes you think your child won't be next. I don't want your fucking sympathy. I want you to stop voting for gun-whore politicians. pic.twitter.com/fhJedsF2xr
— Bob Weiss (@BobWeiss91362) February 16, 2018
I am Jaclyn Corin, a survivor of the Parkland shooting. I am working with the #NeverAgain movement to bring change to my state, my country, and the world. Thank you all for the continuous love and support.
— Jaclyn Corin (@JaclynCorin) February 18, 2018
Dear Marco Rubio,
As a student who was inside the school while an active shooter was wreaking terror and havoc on my teachers and classmates with an AR-15, I would just like to say, YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND.
— Sarah Chadwick// #NEVERAGAIN (@sarahchad_) February 16, 2018
Many of us have been attending funerals everyday since Friday. Having to see our friends in caskets is the reason why we are speaking up and making time for activism. So until you go through what we are going through, you have no right to criticize us. https://t.co/L0bgL8Qrtt
— Kyra (@longlivekcx) February 19, 2018
One student responded to President Donald Trump directly, criticizing a tweet in which he blamed the FBI for paying too much attention to his ongoing Russian collusion investigation and not enough to signs of potential danger from the Parkland shooter.
…my friends were brutally murdered and you have the nerve to make this about Russia. I can not believe this https://t.co/JoEasIsu3V
— Kyra (@longlivekcx) February 18, 2018
These young activists are not just hiding behind their keyboards. Some have not been shy about holding press conferences and giving interviews to mainstream media outlets, again calling for lawmakers to to enact gun-control policy.
You need to stop whatever you’re doing and watch this.
“We are going to be the kids you read about in textbooks. We are going to be the last mass shooting.”
– Emma Gonzalez pic.twitter.com/8druX3A1KW
— Mikel Jollett (@Mikel_Jollett) February 17, 2018
Powerful plea from a student who survived the Parkland shooting, David Hogg: “Please! We are children. You guys are, like…the adults. Take action, work together, come over your politics, and get something done.” pic.twitter.com/UcTNungORp
— Vera Bergengruen (@VeraMBergen) February 15, 2018
15-year-old Douglas freshman Christine Yared wrote a New York Times op-ed about living through the shooting, memorializing her friends and echoing her classmates’ messages.
“We need to vote for those who are for stricter laws and kick out those who won’t take action,” she wrote. “We need to expose the truth about gun violence and the corruption around guns. Please.”
Parkland students are also organizing the upcoming March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., which was first announced on the Sunday show circuit.
“My message for the people in office is: you’re either with us or against us. We are losing our lives while the adults are playing around,” says Cameron Kasky, a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS who survived the shooting https://t.co/23UcS7BvpW https://t.co/ERSSNzMPbu
— CNN (@CNN) February 18, 2018
“On March 24, the kids and families of March For Our Lives will take to the streets of Washington D.C. to demand that their lives and safety become a priority and that we end gun violence and mass shootings in our schools today,” reads the mission statement on the event’s website.
On Wednesday night, many Parkland students grilled Florida politicians — especially conservative Florida Sen. Marco Rubio — on what they plan to do about guns and school safety going forward during a live CNN Town Hall.
Cameron Kasky, a junior who survived the Parkland school shooting:
"Senator Rubio, can you tell me you won't accept a single donation from the NRA?"#StudentsStandUp https://t.co/zvUGlhXvwo
— Daniella Diaz (@DaniellaMicaela) February 22, 2018
Mainstream media outlets have caught on to the students’ newfound power in the gun-control debate. As the Baltimore Sun’s Dave Zurawik put it: “[Parkland students] are also showing the kind of moral leadership on gun control and school safety that could shame Congress and the administration for offering only platitudes and little or no action.”
Think-pieces about the shooting have gone from parsing politicians’ reactions and the shooter’s history to discussing what factors led to the Parkland students’ reacting to their tragedy in such a decisive, adult manner.
Washington Post analyst Philip Bump noted that these children grew up in a world where school shootings were more frequent than in past generations, thus increasing their frustration with politicians and their inability to prevent these tragedies from occurring.
“For them, for a generation that grew up preparing for mass shootings the way those who are older grew up with fire drills, this shooting is part of an endemic problem that’s been with them their whole lives,” Bump wrote.
The Atlantic’s Robinson Meyer made a similar case for the conditions that fostered so much animosity toward political figures in Generation Z.
“Those students understand that they live in a country that they have very little power to change — a country where, several times a year, a school for children becomes a charnel house,” he wrote. “So when that hideous transformation struck their school, they already knew what they wanted to do.”
That idea is rooted in the notion that a deeply embedded cynicism has taken ahold of these students. The New Yorker’s Emily Witt pushed back against that concept, making the argument that this youth mobilization has been mostly sparked by faith that real change is achievable.
“The first step of the Never Again movement was believing in an idea that the rest of America had grown too cynical to imagine: that Marjory Stoneman Douglas High really could be the last school shooting in America,” she wrote.
In a separate New Yorker article, Witt also brought up the fact that the Parkland shooting affected a relatively affluent community, thus increasing the likelihood politicians will pay attention to their needs and desires.
There was inevitably going to be some pushback to these students leading the anti-gun charge from the other side of the gun-control debate. Most of that vitriol has come from online trolls, including some suggesting that the students are paid actors and not grief-stricken teenagers.
This video suggesting that David Hogg is a paid actor is now the No. 1 trending video on YouTubehttps://t.co/lOJodxi8NV pic.twitter.com/AeuJX5ylTU
— maxwell (@maxwellstrachan) February 21, 2018
Some conservative pundits, like Tomi Lahren, have criticized the politicization of Parkland by the Left. Rush Limbaugh, a conservative radio host, condemned the March for Our Lives as “an event that advances a political agenda for the American Left and the Democrat Party.”
The irony on display there is that these students do not appear to be advancing a party-based agenda as much as advocating for all politicians to quit bickering long enough to thoughtfully engage each other on an issue integral to their and their peers’ collective safety.
As New York Magazine writer Benjamin Hart put it, the survivors of this horrific shooting are using their voices to make a clear, concise point about what they no longer deem to be acceptable going forward.
“The Stoneman Douglas students vow that theirs will be the last school shooting in America,” he wrote. “They’re probably wrong. But by controlling the narrative around their own tragedy and using it to rally others to their cause, they’ve shown the country that despair and paralysis are no longer an appropriate response to our gun violence crisis.”