Human Rights

Students Who Survived the Florida Shooting Are Stepping onto the National Stage to Demand Gun Control

Five teenagers invite the nation to march with them to end mass shootings.

Emma González, school shooting survivor and organizer of the March for Our Lives on March 24.
Photo Credit: Screen Capture

Seventeen people were shot to death at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on February 14. Their peers and family members want this mass shooting to be the last one, and in order to drive that aim home, they are organizing the March for Our Lives, set for March 24 in Washington, D.C. 

On a crowded podium the day after the shooting, Stoneman Douglas 12th-grader Emma González spoke to a crowd at a gun control rally in Fort Lauderdale, surrounded by victims' family members and other shooting survivors. She recalled cowering in a closet for hours while she heard gunfire rain down on her friends. She shamed lawmakers for taking money from the NRA and refusing to take action on gun violence. 

"Every single person who is up here today, all these people, should be at home grieving, but instead we are up here because if all our government and president can do is send 'thoughts and prayers,' then it's time for victims to be the change that we need to see," González said. "We need to pay attention to the fact that this isn't just a mental health issue. He wouldn't have harmed that many students with a knife!"

González is organizing a national protest effort alongside fellow students David Hogg, Alex Wind, Cameron Kasky and Jacqueline Coren, all of whom attend Stoneman Douglas and were there the day of the shooting. Their goal is to pressure legislators to implement stronger firearm regulations, and ideally, to restrict access to automatic and semiautomatic weapons like the AR-15 that enabled the accused gunman to massacre people at the school last week.

"We are going to be the last mass shooting,” Emma González said to a roaring crowd at the gun control rally. "Just like Tinker v. Des Moines, we are going to change the law. That's gonna be Marjory Stoneman Douglas in that textbook. And it's all going to be due to the tireless effort of the school board, the faculty members, the family members, and most importantly the students. The students who are dead, the students still in the hospital, the students who are now suffering from PTSD." 

"Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa was the sole sponsor on this bill that stops the FBI from performing background checks on people adjudicated to be mentally ill, and now he's stating for the record, 'Well, it's a shame that the FBI isn't performing background checks on these mentally ill people.' Well, duh. You took that opportunity away last year," González said. 

"The people in the government who were voted into power are lying to us," she continued. "And us kids seem to be the only ones who notice and are prepared to call BS."

The organizers of the Women’s March are supporting the students’ efforts by calling for a national school walkout—dubbed the #Enough Walkout—on March 14.

Their goal is to force the nation’s elected officials, Republicans in particular, to take action against gun violence. Student survivors and the victims’ parents have made it clear that politicians' thoughts and prayers are not enough.

"From here on, we are creating a badge of shame for any politicians who are accepting money from the NRA,” 11th-grader Cameron Kasky told People magazine. “It is a special interest group that has most certainly not [got] our best interests in mind....At the end of the day, this isn’t a red and blue thing. This isn’t Democrats or Republicans. This is about everybody and how we are begging for our lives,” he added. “We need to make real change here—and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”

April M. Short is a freelance writer who focuses on health, wellness and social justice. She previously worked as AlterNet's drugs and health editor. 

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