On March 24, 2018, over 3000 people showed up at Miami Beach Senior High School to join one of the many sister walks of the March For Our Lives. The march, which was primarily organized by students, served as a call for politicians to strengthen gun control laws and increase safety measures in schools. In the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, people of all ages all around the world were ready to stand up for change, and this event was the perfect opportunity to do just that.
In America, the Second Amendment has created a country where owning a weapon is seen as normal. People are free to stockpile guns, order ammunition online, use bump stocks, and more. Though many embrace the right to bear arms, saying it is a fundamental right written in the constitution, there seems to be an ever growing movement that supports the view that guns, specifically assault rifles, are not meant to be in the hands of the public. For example, in Boston, Massachusetts, federal judge William Young recently banned assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, saying that these advanced technologies do not represent the ‘arms’ mentioned in the Second Amendment, as they fall out of its scope. “The AR-15 and its analogs, along with large capacity magazines, are simply not weapons within the original meaning of the individual constitutional right to ‘bear Arms,’” wrote Young, in a 47-page ruling explaining his decision. Due to this ban, Massachusetts is now seen by many as the ideal representation of what gun control laws in the United States should be like. As gun violence ensues, people are hoping that this ruling will inspire other states to act accordingly.
With gun violence seemingly on the rise, the United States is often being compared to other countries who faced similar issues, yet were able to overcome them. Take Australia, for example. In 1996, a man walked into a cafe in Port Arthur, Australia, pulled out a rifle, and killed 35 people (and injured 23 more). As a response to the mass shooting, legislators banned certain types of firearms, such as automatic and semiautomatic rifles and shotguns, confiscated 650,000 of these guns through a mandatory buyback program (firearms were purchased from gun owners), established a registry of all of the guns owned in the country, and required a permit for all new firearm purchases. This occurrence, along with other countries’ gun-related policies and/or restrictions present in other countries, is being used as arguments against those backing the Second Amendment, and an immense amount of advocacy for the fight against guns is being seen as a result.
Though many see this new wave of support towards creating a safer future as a positive, a big questions still stands: Why now? Why, after numerous mass shootings, not to mention the countless gun deaths, does it seem as though people have just begun to care?
According to the definition of mass shootings provided by the Gun Violence Archive, the United States had a total of 346 mass shootings in 2017. With this many mass shootings, not including the countless other gun-related deaths/injuries, Americans who have been used to compartmentalizing mass shootings have begun to feel more affected by the gun violence. Even if a shooting did not occur nearby, the strong presence of these events throughout different news networks and social media platforms have brought these tragedies to light. Becoming aware makes people care.
With social media being used as a means to express one’s thoughts, ideas are being spread like wildfire from platform to platform. People feel invulnerable to the world while hiding behind a screen. By growing up with this feeling, today’s teenagers and young adults, specifically, have become experts in using technology to their advantage. Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ own Emma Gonzalez has become an internet sensation after surpassing the NRA’s Twitter following of about 653,000 people. She currently has about 1,550,000 followers of her own, and continues to use her influence to spread information about gun violence/reform, protests, voting, and more. Social media is being used as a tool for change, and people’s words are impacting the world in a more pervasive way than ever before.
Now that people are standing up and speaking out, change, whether it be seen as positive or negative, is being seen. Three weeks after the Parkland shooting, Florida Legislature passed a bill that strengthened some restrictions on gun control. The minimum age to purchase a gun was raised from 18 to 21, a three day waiting period (or a longer background check) was implemented, bump stocks were banned, school security was funded, school employees were given permission to be armed, and mental health services/regulations were expanded.\
Despite this bill being passed by legislature, people are still thirsty for more change, preferably on a national scale. After the success of the March For Our Lives, a walkout is organized to take place on April 20, on the 19 year anniversary of the mass shooting in Columbine, Colorado. On this day in 1999, two teenagers went on a rampage, killing 13 people and injuring over 20. They then proceeded to take their own lives. To honor this tragedy, students are encouraged to walk out of school, wearing orange, to further protest gun violence in the United States. The quest for change continues, and though it may be a slow process, people are ready to fight for their lives.
“Protect Kids, Not Guns.” #EnoughIsEnough
These tags, with $1.o5 written on them, were directed at Senator Marco Rubio. The number represents the value “placed” by Rubio on each student’s life in Florida. This number was calculated by dividing the amount the National Rifle Association has spent to support Rubio’s campaigns, $3.3 million, by the 3.1 million public and private school students in the state.
March For Our Lives, March 24, 2018, Miami Beach Senior High School
- A “bump stock” replaces a rifle’s standard stock, which is the part held against the shoulder. It frees the weapon to slide back and forth rapidly, harnessing the energy from the kickback shooters feel when the weapon fires. The bump stock is not banned under federal law even though it allows a weapon to fire at nearly the rate of a machine gun without technically converting it to a fully automatic firearm.
- Australia’s firearm homicide rate dropped by about 42 percent in the seven years after the law passed, and its firearm suicide rate fell by 57 percent, according to a review of the evidence by Harvard researchers. It’s difficult to know for sure how much of the drop in homicides and suicides was caused specifically by the gun buyback program and other legal changes. Australia’s gun deaths, for one, were already declining before the law passed. But researchers David Hemenway and Mary Vriniotis argue that the gun buyback program very likely played a role. (https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/2/21/17028930/gun-violence-us-statistics-charts)
FOUR or more shot and/or killed in a single event [incident], at the same general time and location, not including the shooter.