Former President Barack Obama extended a welcoming hand to students advocating for stricter gun control policies in the wake of a deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida. In a message shared on Twitter on Thursday, Obama praised Parkland students for their "inspiring" activism and noted he had their backs in the fight for gun control reform.
"Young people have helped lead all our great movements," the former president tweeted Thursday. "How inspiring to see it again in so many smart, fearless students standing up for their right to be safe; marching and organizing to remake the world as it should be."
Seventeen people were killed Feb. 14 when a former student opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. But while the Parkland shooting wasn't the first school shooting of 2018, it remains unique in that it's kicked off a passionate wave of youth-led activism. In the wake of the shooting, a number of surviving students have quickly become fierce and vocal advocates for stricter gun control measures.
Parkland students have, however, faced some setbacks in their efforts to push for stricter gun control. According to the Associated Press, Republican state legislators in Florida voted against considering a bill that would have banned large-capacity magazines and assault rifles like the AR-15 used in the Parkland school shooting Wednesday, despite hundreds of students lobbying for the bill.
Obama's message echoed one his wife, former First Lady Michelle Obama, had sent Wednesday. While Michelle said she was "in total awe of the extraordinary students in Florida," she also noted that "gun reform will take unyielding courage and endurance." The former first lady threw her support behind the students, tweeting that she and Obama "believed" in the students and were "proud" of them. "We're behind you every step of the way," she tweeted.
Hillary Clinton also tweeted a message of support to Parkland students this week. The 2016 Democratic nominee praised Parkland students for the "courage" they've shown "in standing up for truth."
Thursday's message wasn't the first time Obama had commented on the Parkland school shooting. In a tweet posted minutes after President Donald Trump addressed the nation last week about the need to better address mental health and school security issues in the wake of the Parkland shooting, Obama took to Twitter to urge "long overdue" legislative action on gun control.
"We are grieving with Parkland. But we are not powerless," Obama tweeted Feb. 15. "Caring for our kids is our first job. And until we can honestly say that we're doing enough to keep them safe from harm, including long overdue, common-sense gun safety laws that most Americans want, then we have to change." His statement appeared to be a striking contrast to Trump's remarks on the country's latest school shooting.
President Trump refrained from mentioning gun control or even guns when speaking about the Florida school shooting in a televised address last week. Moreover, Trump has previously criticized discussing gun control in the wake of mass shootings. In remarks delivered in early October after 59 people were killed and more than 500 were injured when a gunman opened fire on concertgoers in Las Vegas, Nevada, Trump said the aftermath of such tragedies was not the time to discuss politics or gun control policies.
In his latest message, however, Obama wanted the young people advocating for gun control reform to know they're not alone in their fight. "We've been waiting for you," he tweeted. "And we've got your backs."