Student Activism, Unprecedented Change

Global Engagements Fellowship

The unfortunate reality is a culture America once prided itself on has now become a major issue. Mass shootings are occurring monthly, sometimes more frequently than that. The cycle is pretty consistent, a mass shooting occurs, the country collectively mourns the losses, political debates surrounding gun control ensue and eventually fade away along with the rest of that week’s news.

This time, however, the tides are shifting. In Parkland, Florida, 17 students lost their lives when a 19-year-old, former student opened fire in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. What followed was not the usual mourn and move on motion. Instead, students of the high school began what is now a nationwide movement of student activism calling for gun control, namely to ban assault style weapons. The teens have interacted with political leaders and encouraged several student walk-outs across the nation. Social media has been a prominent platform for the students. Several videos have gone viral of the students speaking out about gun control, garnering attention from many celebrities, and have created the Twitter hashtag #NeverAgain, which remains in the media several weeks later.

For the first time, the topic of gun control doesn’t seem to be fading away due to the courage of these students. Now, right-wing political figures seem to be vying for the opportunity to discredit these students who have become a large threat to gun culture in America. The vilest under the right-wing agenda have created conspiracy theories trying to pin the students as “crisis actors” of the left. However, the general consensus from the majority of the right is that these students are to be discredited due to their age and lack of reason, especially under such stress. Let’s not forget when political commentator Dinesh D’Souza tweeted “Worst news since their parents told them to get summer jobs,” following the announcement that Florida lawmakers voted down a bill to ban assault weapons.

While it is disheartening to see so many political leaders take a stab at students trying to make a change, their words do not reflect the actions of many. In fact, major retailers like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart have taken action by raising their age limit to purchase a gun to 21. Popular dating app Bumble has banned guns from being featured in profile photos as well in the wake of the Florida shooting. While the leaders of the movement may be young, they are far from useless. These are some of the first major steps America has seen in the fight against gun control.

For those who truly believe that students of such a young age are incapable of igniting such significant change, do not forget it was teenagers who staged the first Greensboro sit-ins to protest segregation in 1960. Historical university protests regarding racism and anti-war have changed many universities policies. Student led protests in Iran have brought change to a normally tightly regulated country. Young people are often movement leaders that have brought about great changes to our world.

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