This is Our Movement

Lena Armstrong

This article is part of the Radnorite’s series on the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and the movement it has inspired.

On February 15th, as my friends and I gathered around our lunch table, my friend asked, “So we are all for gun control, right?” We unanimously nodded and sat down. The day before, one of the deadliest school shootings in America had occured at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen students and teachers lost their lives in just six minutes, from a legally purchased AR-15 rifle.

What does it take to get political action for reasonable gun control? It was not enough when 15 people lost their lives at the Columbine High School in 1999.  It was not enough when 27 people lost their lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.  It was not even enough when the students from Stoneman Douglas went to Tallahassee to encourage politicians to enact reform.  It does not seem to matter that a recent Washington Post poll showed that 77% of Americans believe that U.S. politicians are not doing enough to prevent mass shootings.  It does not seem to matter to elected officials that it is easier to buy an AR-15 than a handgun. The Florida House rejected the bill proposal to ban assault rifles all the same on February 20th, with a vote of 36 to 71. Instead, they proposed to give teachers the right to carry guns.

It is time for change. Americans should not read about a massacre every week.  In the past two months alone, there have been 34 mass shootings in the U.S.  Contrary to President Trump’s tweets, mental health problems are not solely responsible for this problem. According to a database of mass shooters created by Michael Stone, a psychiatrist at Columbia University, only 22% of mass shooters have a mental illness. This gun problem seems to be a uniquely American problem. An assault is three times more likely to involve a gun in the U.S. than in any other industrialized country.

Gun control has proven effective. In 1996, Australia had a mass shooting involving a man who killed 35 people and wounded 23 more. In response, Australian lawmakers banned certain types of firearms, confiscated 650,000 guns through a buy-back program, and established a registry of all guns owned in the country. As a result, the Australian firearm homicide rate dropped 42% in seven years, and firearm suicide dropped 57%, according to a review of the evidence by Harvard researchers.

Our generation has become used to shooting after shooting. Since the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012, there have been more than 1,600 mass shootings, which have killed over 1,800 people and wounded more than 6,400. The United States seems to have a unique problem with the highest homicides by firearm per one million people at 29.7, according to a UNDOC report. The next highest country is Switzerland with 7.7 homicides by firearm.  According to CNN, “The US makes up less than 5% of the world’s population, but 31% of global mass shooters.”  It is time for the government to make a change. Politicians need to hear that more guns will not fix this problem.

The students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have publicly spoken out against gun violence and for gun control. They have started a movement. Taking to social media with #NeverAgain, these students are calling for the youth of America to stand with them in a nationwide school walkout on March 14th. They ask Americans to join them in March for Our Lives on March 24th in Washington D.C. and every other major city. “The one fear we have is that nothing will change,” Anthony Lopez, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student, explains. “We need to do something. We need to get out there and be politically active. Congress needs to get over their political bias with each other and work toward saving children’s lives.” He simply explains, “We’re the children. You guys are the adults.”

Why do the youth of America have to stand up? High schoolers should not have to watch the murder of their fellow students. We should not have to live in fear of mass shootings at our schools. We should not have to be the ones to tell the government to fix the problem. But when the politicians do not take action, we must.

It is our turn to produce change. Previous generations’ youth have protested for abolition, the right for women to vote, civil rights, and peace; now it is our turn to protest.  It is the will of the youth to create change for the next generation. “The people in the government who are voted into power are lying to us,” explains Emma Gonzalez, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. “And us kids seem to be the only ones who notice and are prepared to call B.S.” She called out Trump and other politicians for not changing policy because they receive millions of dollars from the NRA.

The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have called for a nationwide student walk-out. The students of Radnor High School are planning to take part. At 9:55 am on March 14th, the students plan to leave class. Unified by a mission for change, we will gather from 10 am to 10:17 am to spend 17 minutes mourning the loss of 17 lives. The purpose of this walk-out is to show the unification of the youth of America, not only reflecting on the loss of other students, but also making a public stand against the school shootings and lack of gun regulation.  The goal of this walk-out is unity, because through common dissent of the current system we can produce change.

The administration of Radnor High School is prioritizing student safety in anticipation of this walk-out.  They are making sure there will be an appropriate police presence to protect the students during this national event. The administration temporarily waved the punishment for “cutting a class” (usually a 4% grade reduction and detention) to participate in the walk-out, in response to a petition from RHS students. The administration supports students’ freedom of speech. Mr. Bechtold, the principal of Radnor High School, explains, “This is your school and it is important for students to have a voice.” As requested by the movement, this Radnor High School walkout is entirely student organized and run.

This is our moment. We share the walkout with the students of Stoneman Douglas and hopefully the entire nation, to show our solidarity. It is time for the youth of America to come together. We want to make a difference. We want to see a change. This is our movement!