Pop goes the politics
Parkland students build their own platform
Leah Scheitel // Copy Editor
The US is in the midst of yet another constitutional crisis over the Second Amendment. The gun control debate is enflamed right now after yet another mass shooting at a high school in Florida. And this time, measly thoughts and prayers are definitely not enough.
After a Valentines’ Day massacre at Stoneham Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead, teenage students are refusing the apathetic policies and are demanding actual gun legislation. These students are organized, media savvy, well-spoken and fed up. They’re using their horrifying experience to build their own platform to challenge the politicians who won’t give them what they want – gun control.
What the students from Stoneham Douglas have done in the weeks after their school was shot up is amazing. They’ve held rallies, organized four different nation-wide walkouts and held sit-ins at Florida’s s
tate capital buildings in Tallahassee. They have started #EveryTown campaign, advocating about gun violence. And on Feb. 21, they faced the politicians and leaders who seem to value the Second Amendment over the safety of students.
The CNN Town Hall forum, moderated by Jake Tapper, showcased the divide in America on the issue of gun rights, and the students came fully prepared. When student Cameron Kasky looked Florida senator Marco Rubio straight in the eye and asked him if he would no longer accept donations from the National Rifle Association (NRA), he controlled the conversation, and wouldn’t let Rubio wiggle his way out of the answer using the typical political bullshit. Rubio tried his political tango, but Kasky stoically reiterated his question and waited for a response that satisfied his answer, a tactic that should be taught in journalism schools and newsrooms everywhere.
Later on in the evening, Emma Gonzalez, who has emerged as a leader in the gun control movement, faced off with NRA spokesperson and human version of the Little Mermaid’s Ursula, Dana Loesch, questioning her on the NRA’s stance on modifications for semi-automatic weapons. While Loesch attempted to guise herself under a cloak of empathy, going as far to commend Gonzalez for being a politically active teenager, her answers fell short. She tried to manipulate the conversation away from guns and towards the dangers of not reporting “crazy” and dangerous people, but instead fell into the uncharted waters of knowledgeable teenagers with their own platforms and a bone to pick with the NRA.
These students aren’t letting the adults tell their stories for them, even though some are desperate to. They have been accosted by some media outlets, who are suggesting that they are nothing more than paid actors who are being coached by liberals. Fox News personality, Laura Ingraham, called out one student, Sarah Chadwick, for disrespecting Marco Rubio after she suggested that AR-15s should be renamed Marco Rubio because “they’re so easy to buy” – a joke so on point, it had comedians on Twitter drooling over it. This is the first generation to have their entire childhoods documented online – if media personalities want to challenge them on their court, that is their hill to die on.
While the rest of the world watched in awe, the Stoneham High students have created tangible resources, such as a nation-wide database that will educate first-time voters on how to get registered – Voting 101, if you will. They have received funding from multiple donors, including several prominent Hollywood personalities, like Oprah Winfrey and George Clooney – on Feb. 22, the Miami Herald reported they had raised $3.5 million for their cause in eight days. They have prompted business such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, to end their business relationships with the NRA, and more businesses are deserting the NRA on their quest to protect the Second Amendment. And they have done all of this while mourning their friends, classmates and teachers.
Changing the status quo takes time, eloquence, dedication, education and funding, something all of these students have, and apparently in spades. While it could be a long battle to see gun reform in America, it is a battle that these students are willing to fight for. While it is too early to see the full effects of their efforts, it looks as if they aren’t going away easily. And NRA-funded politicians should be worried, as this is the next generation of voters, and they are rightfully pissed off.