On February 14, 2018, 17 people were brutally gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. One month later, students across the United States took to the streets for an event known as “March For Our Lives.” The march was intended to let Congress know that the youth believes changes need to be made regarding gun laws in the United States. Judging from the signs you’re about to see, they could not have made their voices clearer!
You won’t believe just how young one brave protester is.
This sign is the number one argument about why the United States needs stricter gun control laws. The student holding this sign is not implying that guns should be taken away. Instead, she is pointing out that weapons have advanced technologically by 300 years while the 2nd Amendment has not.
This student took part in one of 800 “March for our Lives” rallies that occurred on March 24, 2018. The largest march took place at the National Mall in Washington D.C., where the crowd reached over 200,000 demonstraters. Organizers for the event put the total number of participants coming and going at 800,000.
The Youth Are Registering To Vote
This young adult has one very strong message she wants to send Washington. She is 18-years-old and fully intends to use that power to vote. She fully intends to be a part of the change she wants to see. More importantly, she is not the only young role-model taking a stand a choosing to vote. In fact, a major focal point of the “March for Our Lives” rallies was to register young people to vote.
In Washington, for example, voter registration booths were staged at multiple street intersections. One of the rallying cries of these booths was, “Don’t just go out and vote: Get 17 other people to go out and vote.”
Our next protester took her sign to a morbid extreme.
Signs Are More Than Just Paper Glued To Sticks
Protest signs come in many shapes and sizes. For this student, her jacket is her sign and she is sending a very clear message. After the Parkland Massacre happened, it became public knowledge just how much money the NRA was spending to support political campaigns, which has placed the association as public enemy number one in the eyes of a lot of young people.
Of course, as students and young adults protested for stricter gun control laws in March, a number of counter-rallies were held by the opposition. One of the largest of these counter rallies took place in Salt Lake City, Utah with civilians proudly showing off their artillery.
Grades Should Be The Scariest Part Going To School
Another common and sobering sentiment from student protesters is highlighted by these signs. Schools should feel safe, the only thing that kids should have to be scared about in the classroom is their grades. Still, the underpinning fear that a shooter could show up at any school any day has turned students attention unfairly away from their studies.
Constant lockdown safety drills have worn down students emotionally. One, from a rally in Alaska, said, “Do you know how it feels to have the principal pretend over the intercom that the shooter is walking your way? Those who do not contribute to change contribute to our death.”
Our next protester should be too young too worry, but sadly…
Fear Affects All Ages
For the very young, the “March for Our Lives” rallies took on a different meaning altogether. This very young girl isn’t just scared of going to school. She’s scared she won’t live long enough to be able to vote and change the world for the better. For now, she has her voice and her pen, and the message is very sad.
In order to save lives like the one pictured, a number of rallies were held in pro-gun states like Alaska and Vermont. In Vermont, organizers hoped to pull an ambitiously large crowd in the thousands to the Capitol building in Montpelier, a town of 7,500 residents. Organizers have since reported that over 2,000 residents showed up to march.
All It Takes Is A Few Seconds
Assault rifles can fire a stifling number of bullets in just a few seconds. By the time you’re done reading the sign in the picture, over 30 bullets can be fired. That’s scary, but it’s also the truth of the issue the youth is fighting. Marching is not an option for many those that have been affected by gun violence, it has become their civic duty.
When Emma Gonzalez stepped up to the podium she set a timer. After a brief statement, she stood in silence and stared past the crowd until her timer went off. Afterward, she informed the crowd that those six minutes and twenty seconds were how long it took the Parkland shooter to finish his assault and then blend in with the rest of the panicked student body.
Of course, gun violence does not only affect young people during class…
Proving that fear of gun violence goes beyond the classroom, this little boy lifts up his hands, which read, “don’t shoot.” The phrase, “don’t shoot” became a rallying cry for protesters in 2014 after it was revealed as Michael Brown’s last words and actions before he was shot and killed by officers in Ferguson, Missouri.
Since Parkland, “Don’t shoot!” has again become one of many adopted slogans for young people protesting firearms. In nearly every city, pictures of young people like the little boy above can be found holding their arms up in solidarity. The message is that gun control is not just a school safety issue, it is a public safety issue.
Let’s Talk Dress Code
Focusing on the female student on the left, a new and interesting question is posed. While dress code is typically a policy left for schools to decide, it is universally strict. This student wants to know why something non-violent, like the way she dresses, is more heavily regulated than a weapon designed to maim.
To be clear, the point of the sign is not to mock gun-control. She, like so many outspoken students, wants Congress to step up and ban assault rifles, as well as implement universal and intensive background checks for any person 21 or over to be able to buy a gun across the United States.
Enough Is Enough Already
The anti-assault rifle clock pictured above being pushed by very young children is highlighted by an assault rifle as the hour hand. Each hour marker labels a mass shooting that has happened in the United States, as well as the number of victims. Since 1982, in fact, there has been at least 61 mass shooting in the country across 30 states.
During an independent investigation, Mother Jones, a journalism website, found that in a majority of those shootings, the killed obtained their weapon through legal means. And in the last seven years, the United States has averaged 16.4 incidents of mass gun violence.
Our next protester highlights why those facts are important to know.
What Happens Next Matters
Similar to the previous slide, this young person lists a number of mass shootings. At the end of his list, he pushes the topic into the future asking, “Who’s next?” After all, the point of these rallies is not to change the past, but help create a better and safer future.
While focusing on registering voters, the rallies also sought to educate voters on when the next elections are. With midterms just around the corner, a difference can be made right away and change can be pushed in a positive direction. There is still a long road ahead for young people fighting for stricter gun control laws, but at least the road has been paved.
Thoughts And Prayers Aren’t Enough
One of the largest reasons students have felt the need to protest is that they are tired of hearing “thoughts and prayers.” As a number of them made clear at “March for Our Lives,” thoughts and prayers won’t bring back dead friends, and won’t protect those still alive today.
Sari Kaufman, a Parkland survivor, fired up the crowd when she said, “turn this moment into a movement. They think we’re all talk and no action, Remember that policy change is not nearly as difficult as losing a loved one.” She then urged the public to vote in the next election cycle.
No Student Should Have To Run In Fear
There’s a lot to unload in the signs above. The middle sign, “art not artillery” is an answer to the President’s to arm teacher and pay them a “small bonus.”. With art programs already suffering from budget cuts in nearly every state, it would make more sense to fund education instead of funding the militarization of schools across America.
Students want to feel safe. The sign on the right makes that clear. After Parkland students ran away from the school in fear. This young adult is choosing to march for change so that he doesn’t have to worry about running for his life in the future.
Our next protester would prefer to run to the school library.
Books Not Bullets
Again, these students would rather see extra funding for schools go to new supplies and textbooks instead of arming teachers. One sentiment that rang universally across the rallies was that students would not feel safer if teachers were armed. They are pushing for stricter gun control laws so that teachers never have to be armed and a gun never has to enter the classroom.
The White House has responded to with high praise for the youth that are making their voices heard. A bill has even been signed banning bump stocks. However, there has been little to no movement for stronger background checks or stricter school safety measures.
Some students even believe guns have more rights than they do!
Guns Have More Rights Then Students
The argument presented here is that guns have more rights than students do. The student on the left shows the number of students killed by guns in the United States compared to other countries with strict gun laws. The numbers aren’t even close, with the United States at over 10,000 and Japan the next closest at 48.
The sign on the right employs a different method to send the same message. Directly attacking conservative Republicans, this student criticizes how important fetal safety is to politicians, but once the child is born protecting guns becomes more important. Suddenly these human beings have become expendable.
Tool For Change Are Within Reach
Change the Ref is an educational organization formed after Parkland by the parents of one of the victims. Their goal is to give young adults and students a resource to see what ways they can be more involved to directly affect the environment and create change.
Change the Ref sweatshirts were raised high during the “March for Our Lives” rallies. Anyone who has visited the organization’s website will instantly see links to a number of events that can be attended, as well as a message from Manuel Olivier, the father, and founder, who lost his son Joaquin on February 14. He hopes to encourage the future leaders of America to make sure an event as terrible as Parkland never happens again.
Words Are Stronger Than Bullets
Another persisting sentiment from rallies across the nation was that words can be more powerful than bullets. This is how change can start. It’s hard to read, but the middle sign reads, “you can put a silencer on a gun, but not on me,” which a moving statement on how strong the combined voices of the youth can be.
In fact, the voices of the youth in D.C. were so strong that zero firearms were permitted within the boundaries of the march. Going further, demonstraters also banned metal poles or anything that could be used to incite violence in a crowd to ensure the safety of protesters and keep the focus on their words. A few even had strong words aimed directly at the NRA
N.R.A. Doesn’t Mean The Same Thing To Everyone
The initials N.R.A. stand for National Rifle Association. The student pictured above has decided it would be more fitting to rename the organization “No Rational Argument.” Combined with his peers’ signs declaring their fear for their lives in the classroom, it’s clear there is no compromise with the desires of young demonstrators.
Their fears are also founded in logic. Since 2009, of 673 victims lost to mass shootings, one third have been under the age of 17. Even scarier, when weapons identified as assault rifles were used, 155 percent more people on average were murdered. Those facts make our next sign even more condemning.
Neutrality Is Oppression
As voices of the youth grow stronger and stronger, this student states that those who stay neutral and quiet on the issue of gun control are no better than those opposed to stricter laws. The desire for such vocal change comes from the seeming disparity between the very loud voices of gun supporters and gun-law statistics.
Take this statistic for instance; from 2009 to 2013 there were half as many mass shootings in states that required thorough background checks for gun buyers than states that did not. This directly points to the success of gun control laws in states that currently employ them in some form.
Life Is More Valuable Than Guns
While a clear value can be placed on the cost of weapons, this student confirms that similar value cannot be placed on human life. Sadly, it can be argued that the government’s “value” of human life has decreased as gun laws have become more relaxed in the United States.
The truth of the matter is that seven people between the ages of 12 and 19 are killed on an average day, every day in America. The gun homicide rate is nearly 25 times higher than similar high-income countries. Despite these facts, the youth feel silenced and are now speaking loudly and clearly, trying to force those in positions of political power to make positive change. Most importantly, as our next slide shows, these incidents happy far too often.
Parkland Survivors Are Not Alone
In perhaps the strongest show of unity with Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, students from Newtown High School took the stage with a sign of their own. A number of freshman at Newtown were survivors of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012 that left 20 six and seven-year-olds dead, as well as six staff members.
Gun violence is a national problem. Focusing the lens on an area wider than just schools and other “gun free zones” is important. In fact, while many argue that areas that prohibit guns create more attractive targets for shooters, statistics state that only 10 percent of targeted shootings take place in there.
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