On President’s Day, several teenagers staged a protest to call for better gun reform in the wake of the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida last week.
A group called Teens for Gun Reform had asked for 17 volunteers to lie down outside the White House for three minutes, the amount of time that Nikolas Cruz spent shooting at students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. But while they had originally asked for 17 people to represent the 17 people killed in the shooting, over a hundred people responded to the call for action.
“The two of us have organized this protest in solidarity with all of those who were affected by the tragic school shooting in Florida last week,” Eleanor Nuechterlein and Whitney Bowen, the teen organizers, said in a statement, according to CNN. “We call on our national and state legislatures to finally act responsibly and reduce the number of these tragic incidents. It’s essential that we all feel safe in our classrooms.”
The two teenagers used Facebook to organize the protest and have called on others to do more than offer thoughts and prayers after the shooting.
“The ‘lie-in’ itself was powerful, and we are so appreciative of the protesters, friends and media who came,” Bowen said. “We hope that the coverage of today’s event will help promote much-needed change. In the end, this is only the start. We are so inspired by the brave students from Parkland in the wake of this atrocity, and hope that legislators will begin to hear and act upon the voices of our generation.”
A new generation takes on gun control
Rep. Don Beyer, a Democrat from Virginia, attended the event and noted how impressed he was that young people are leading the political charge in the wake the deadly rampage by Nikolas Cruz.
“I was very proud of them,” Beyer said. “The ground was cold and wet. This is a holiday. But, yeah, they’re being politically active.”
Across the country students are stepping to the forefront of the gun control debate by scheduling school walkouts and a march in Washington.
The Women’s March EMPOWER branch will kick things off with a call for “students, teachers, school administrators, parents and allies” to take part in a walkout on March 14. Those participating are encouraged to walk out of their classrooms at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes (one minute for each life lost in the massacre), according to NBC News.
The walkout, according to the branch, will “protest Congress’ inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods.”
Ten days later, on March 24, students from Parkland, Florida, where the shooting occurred, are planning their own “March for Our Lives” rally in Washington, D.C.
The protest, according to its mission statement, will “demand that a comprehensive and effective bill be immediately brought before Congress to address these gun issues.”
“No special interest group, no political agenda is more critical than timely passage of legislation to effectively address the gun violence issues that are rampant in our country,” said the group.
Connecticut high school student Lane Murdock, who lives just 20 minutes from Sandy Hook Elementary School, has started a petition for a walkout on April 20 to commemorate the 19th anniversary after the Columbine shooting.
“Nothing has changed since Columbine, let us start a movement that lets the government know the time for change is now,” she wrote in an online petition.
Murdock said that she wanted kids and teens to be able to have a voice, since it is their lives that are being directly affected by school shootings. She intends the march to be a visual representation of their opinions on the matter.
“Gun violence surrounds us. I remember my first lockdown drill as a normal thing,” she said. “I saw how Newtown affected so many around me, and it hurt. It hurts that a shooter can go into a school [and] kill little kids, and adults just let it fade into the background like white noise.”
Will Trump take action?
In the wake of the deadly school shooting by Nikolas Cruz, President Donald Trump is reportedly open to the idea of improving a federal background checks system for gun purchases.
On Monday, Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah released a statement about the bill that Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, and Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, have introduced. The bill, which Shah said Trump had spoken to Cornyn about, would reportedly beef up the reporting system for offenses that would keep people from purchasing guns.
“While discussions are ongoing and revisions are being considered, the President is supportive of efforts to improve the federal background check system,” Shah said, according to CNN.
Thus far, the only action Donald Trump has taken on guns since taking office has been to relax restrictions keeping mentally ill people from acquiring guns.
Shooter’s racist views
According to both the Associated Press and ABC News, Nikolas Cruz was part of a group called the Republic of Florida, which wants to create a white-only state in Florida.
Jordan Jereb, the leader of the group, told the AP that Cruz “acted on his own behalf of what he just did and he’s solely responsible for what he just did.”
Jereb also said that while Cruz was a part of the group, he did not know him personally.
The group describes itself as a “white civil rights organization fighting for white identitarian politics” and holds paramilitary drills, which Cruz attended in Tallahassee.