A nationwide rally for gun control is about to go down on Saturday, March 24 and this time, it's students leading the pack. Advocating for gun control reform and better school safety, students and their allies will take to the streets for the March For Our Lives demonstration and Never Again movement. Survivors of the Parkland, Florida shooting founded the first student-run Never Again organization and the March For Our Lives is one of the organization's main events.
The Never Again movement was born on Feb. 15, 2018, one day after a mass shooting occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In total, 17 students and staff members were killed and more than a dozen others were injured. Despite happening only 7 weeks into the year, the massacre was already America's 8th school shooting that resulted in death.
Devastated by the loss of classmates and faculty, a group of students decided they needed more than just "thoughts and prayers" in the aftermath of gun violence. #NeverAgain emerged from the horror and the national movement has become one of the most prominent opponents of gun lobbying by the National Rifle Association.
MSD students Cameron Kasky, Alex Wind, and Sofie Whitney first cofounded the Never Again movement. Soon after, they recruited fellow students Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, and Delaney Tarr. The teenage activists went on to appear at gun control rallies, television interviews, and a fiery CNN Town Hall debate where they questioned Florida lawmakers on their ties to the NRA. Kasky, Gonzalez ,and Tarr also penned passionate op-eds for CNN, Harper's Bazaar, and Teen Vogue.
On why she's planning to march this weekend, Tarr wrote for Teen Vogue:
There are so many things, so many simple teenage things, that now feel insignificant: Who will we go to prom with? What college are we going to? Now, the only thing that dominates our mind is: How do we keep more children from being murdered? We have been forced to push aside the integral, simple realities of being young adults, and be outspoken about an unspeakable tragedy, one we shouldn’t have had to witness.
Since the protests began, numerous corporations have revoked their special discount programs and partnerships with the NRA — although not without consequence from advocates of loose gun restrictions. Well-known companies who have cut ties with the NRA include airlines Delta and United, plus car rental companies Avis, Budget, Enterprise, and Hertz.
Never Again activists also looked on as Florida legislature passed a new gun bill opposed by the NRA. Gov. Rick Scott signed it on March 9, making the bill "the first successful gun control measure in Florida in more than 20 years," reported Maggie Astor for The New York Times. The legislation raises the minimum age for buying guns from 18 to 21, expands mental health care in schools, allows schools to have armed personnel, and bans bump stocks (the device used to make guns shooter faster, like a fully-automatic weapon). Gun owners have already begun suing Florida for banning bump stocks.
On top of influencing actual legislation, the students' calls for change have attracted national attention — even from President Trump, whose stance on gun control has shifted around over time. After the Parkland shooting, for example, Trump floated the idea of training and arming teachers. On Feb. 28 he told lawmakers he was in favor of a sweeping gun control bill that would strengthen background checks, ban bump stocks, and possibly ban assault weapons (although "assault weapon" is an ambiguous term that would need to be clearly defined). At the meeting, Trump also blasted Republicans for being "petrified" of the NRA. But the NRA shouldn't fret, according to press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. She told reporters on March 2 that Trump had ensured NRA official Chris Cox that he’ll "continue to support the Second Amendment."
Although it is unclear right now how committed Trump is to improving gun policies, one thing is definitely certain: the students leading the Never Again movement are demanding change. The March For Our Lives will begin at 12 p.m. EST in Washington D.C. If you want to participate in a march closer to you, you can find the nearest March For Our Lives on the event website.