One year ago, the nation cried with Parkland, Florida, after a gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Many survivors channeled their grief into a nationwide effort to enact legislation aimed at preventing gun violence. They've been praised for their hard work and tenacity since the tragedy, and a beloved figure who has long worked towards gun reform added his voice to the chorus on Thursday. Barack Obama's Parkland anniversary message on Twitter celebrated the young advocates' successes in the most touching way.
"In the year since their friends were killed, the students of Parkland refused to settle for the way things are and marched, organized, and pushed for the way things should be - helping pass meaningful new gun violence laws in states across the country," Obama tweeted on Thursday. "I'm proud of all of them."
During his presidency, Obama worked hard on the issue of gun violence prevention, but he had limited success. In 2016, he released a series of executive orders enacting policies to reduce gun violence, for example, and in 2012 he set up a task force headed by Vice President Joe Biden to address the response to the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
In the end, Obama's work toward gun control legislation didn't result in much change, the Guardian wrote. While a number of states managed to pass gun violence prevention laws, according to the Guardian, Republicans in Congress blocked any progress on that front at the federal level. Obama's efforts thus fell flat.
In some regards, the Parkland students have had a similar rate of success. The year since the Parkland shooting hasn't seen any gun reform legislation at the federal level, either, although gun violence prevention laws have passed in numerous states across the country. Beyond the individual state laws, a report from the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence said that the Parkland students and their motivation on the issue actually drove a "tectonic shift" in the gun safety movement, which now has momentum that it's never seen before thanks to their tireless work.
The Parkland survivors got that momentum going only days after the shooting, when they announced that they would hold the March for Our Lives event in Washington D.C. in March 2018, which quickly went viral and ended up taking place in cities across the country. They also formed an organization, Never Again, to back the March for Our Lives and many other events. Soon after the march, the organization turned its focus to the 2018 midterms, with the goal of voting out politicians beholden to the gun lobby. In the end, Democrats flipped 41 seats in the House of Representatives — and the Never Again movement's advocacy just may have played a role in that.
Obama's tenure in politics may be over, but his voice — and his commendations — still carry a lot of weight. Perhaps his message will help give Parkland survivors the strength to keep fighting for their goals.