Students across the US walk out to protest the state of the country’s gun laws

The kids are all fight

Students across the US walk out to protest the state of the country’s gun laws

Laura Melczer / contributor

Americans need to have an honest look at themselves in the mirror and realize their relationship to guns is problematic. On Feb. 14, 17 people, including high school students, teachers and administrators lost their lives in a school shooting in Parkland, Florida. In the month since, youth have become a leading voice in the fight for responsible gun legislation in the US.

The National School Walkout, which happened Mar. 14, changed the course of anti-gun activism. The walkout was organized by Empower, the youth chapter of the Women’s March, and saw students from grade school to post-secondary walk out of their classrooms to protest and take action against the state of American gun laws. According to CNN, there were over 2,500 walkouts planned with thousands of students leaving classrooms for 17 minutes, one minute for each person killed in Parkland, Florida. The goals of the day were to bring young people together to show the power of a collective voice and to make demands on Congress to reform gun laws.

To quote Dan Hodges’ famous tweet, “In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.” In terms of law reform in the context of Americans and their guns, it seems impossible to actually make productive change to make the country safer. But it’s inspiring that young people are beginning to inject themselves into this conversation.

Illustration by Fiona Dunnett

Throughout history, young people have been at the forefront of historic change. And to see young people in the US gather together and rally to change gun laws is encouraging. If we throw our hands up and walk away, then nothing will actually get done. That’s why it’s hopeful that students gathered across the country partake in one of the largest demonstrations to protest. This generation of young people is not just saying that they’ve had enough, they are doing something to show their desire for change.

There have been comments from students who refuse to participate and comments saying that a walkout isn’t going to change things. However, the success of Mar. 14 shows that, given the space and tools to do protests, young people have the knowledge and skills to aptly critique the world as it is. One of the major successes is that the demonstrations got people talking about how necessary gun reform is. When you have the majority of news outlets, both American and international channels, paying attention to a cause through major walkouts things tend to start changing.

Bringing about social change and law reform is difficult. Advocating for a cause is exhausting. Especially when we start talking about guns in the US – where firearms are such a piece of identity for so many, attempting social and legal change feels like constantly hitting a brick wall. That’s why it’s so important to bring in young voices and encourage youth to create this change. Young people have a sense of optimism, strength and knowledge that can carry our world forward. Students experienced some of the most horrid violence our world offers, and Mar. 14 they stood up and said enough.

Every Town for Gun Safety, an American organization that seeks to understand gun violence in the country, has identified 305 school shootings in America since 2013. Students and young people came together to say that they weren’t having it. These up and coming generations are more aware, educated and politically involved. And there is an enthusiasm because the next place where these young activists will voice their sentiments will be the polls. For when we look to major political and social issues in the past, much of the work that gets done is by groups of young people realizing they have the power to fight for change.

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