Not one more: “Young people have helped lead all our great movements. 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. We’ve been waiting for you. And we’ve got your backs.” These are the inspiring words of encouragement tweeted by former president Barack Obama in support of the historical demonstration planned for Saturday, March 24 to protest for the end of gun violence and mass shootings in schools across the nation. As a consequence of the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida, survivors of the ordeal have organized the demonstration named March For Our Lives.
With seventeen of their own classmates and teachers wrongly taken from them, the high school organizers are demanding that action be made to address gun violence issues that have plagued the country’s history. The mission statement for the march, which can be found on marchforourlives.com, echoes powerful words of change: “Not one more. We cannot allow one more child to be shot at school. We cannot allow one more teacher to make a choice to jump in front of a firing assault rifle to save the lives of students. We cannot allow one more family to wait for a call or text that never comes.”
The founders of the movement have made evident the need for legislation to combat the deadly shootings that have riddled the United States. As of Feb. 15, there have been 18 incidents of gun violence since the start of the year; that is 18 incidents in only 46 days! As a way to get through to Washington politicians no matter their party lines, March For Our Lives’ mission statement describes school safety as not being a political issue: “There cannot be two sides to doing everything in our power to ensure the lives and futures of children . . . 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.” By recognizing the snail speed process legislation usually faces in a split party environment, the student protesters have shed light on a major weakness of our legislative system today.
In response to the Valentine’s Day Parkland, Florida shooting, current President Donald Trump suggests his solution to end gun violence in schools would be to arm the teachers. To him, the way to fix the issue of mass shootings is not to take away the guns, but to add more. In a session at the White House with survivors of the Florida shooting, Trump stated, “If you had a teacher who was adept with the firearm, they could end the attack very quickly . . . it’s called a concealed carry, where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them . . . Gun-free zone to a maniac . . . because they are all cowards . . . a gun free zone is ‘let’s go in and let’s attack because bullets aren’t coming back at us.’”
When asked how they would feel if they had to carry a concealed weapon in their classrooms, three first-year education students at West Chester University expressed their concern and reservation for the President’s possible solution to ending gun violence. This possibility has brought more controversy and uncertainty to light when the country needs stability and reassurance. Since the government has not provided the answers that the survivors of school shootings need, the students have taken matters into their own hands and created the March For Our Lives movement.
March For Our Lives has rallied support from students and families all across the nation. The Facebook page for the demonstration, created just four days after the Parkland, Florida shooting, has created a network of people who all want to take action against the persistent and deadly issue of gun violence in schools. The official demonstration will take place on the streets of Washington, D.C. on March 24. Sister marches have been planned for the same day in cities like London, Edinburgh, Houston, Philadelphia, New York, Miami, Charleston and the list goes on and on. People all over the world want to contribute to the ending of school shootings.
A student-run sister march in our very own West Chester has been planned for Saturday, March 24 as well. People are invited to rally at the steps of the old courthouse on High Street to demand that students’ safety becomes a priority. For high school students who have been most affected by the March For Our Lives movement, a National School Walk Out is planned for Wednesday, March 14, exactly one month after the tragic Parkland, Florida shooting that sparked this historic demonstration. At 10 a.m., people are encouraged to walk out for 17 minutes, one minute for every person killed at the Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Local high schools like Rustin, Henderson and West Chester East have already announced their plans to participate in the walkout.
Hopefully, this incredible solidarity and support created from an awful time in our history will put enough pressure on politicians in Congress to pass gun reform. We are in the midst of a tragic but inspiring time in American history. Demonstrations like the March For Our Lives prove the power citizens hold in demanding and bringing about needed change.
Maria Marabito is a first-year student majoring in English. ✉ MM883631@wcupa.edu.