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Students lead the fight against gun violence


In the wake of the recent and tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. which claimed the lives of 17 individuals, students along the south shore, and across the nation, are determined to make sure their voices are heard–they are staging walkouts to protest gun violence and push for a ban on assault rifles.

The shooting, at the hands of former student, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, is one of several school shootings to take place in 2018, as the year barely creeps into its two month mark.

According to a Time magazine article on the topic,  Everytown for Gun Safety, a non-profit that advocates for gun control, recorded 17 incidents where guns were fired at schools or colleges in 2018. There were six shootings at K-12 schools where at least one victim was killed or wounded.

On Feb. 8, there was an incident at  New York City’s Metropolitan High School. Fortunately, that attack did not result in any deaths or injuries. However, on Jan. 23 in Kentucky, a 15-year-old student killed two of his peers and injured almost two dozen others. Just the day before, a 15-year-old girl was wounded in a shooting in Texas.

As is commonplace after these kinds of tragedies, the gun control debate gets thrust back into spotlight, and this time, the students themselves are leading the charge on Capitol Hill.

“This isn’t just a mental health issue. He wouldn’t have harmed that many students with a knife,” said Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Emma Gonzalez.

The student touched on a valid point, and Frank Farley, a psychologist with Temple University, would agree, that blaming mental health alone isn’t addressing the full issue. In an interview with Newsweek, he stated, “The best numbers and best statistics suggest that no more than 4 to 5 percent of mass shooters are mentally ill, as defined by criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (a professional psychologists’ handbook, also known as the DSM-V),” he said.

“I personally don’t quite see it that way because there’s clearly mental issues when you slaughter 17 people who you don’t even know. The very fact of doing it indicates clearly, to me, disordered cognition. But in terms of prevention, that behavior is so extreme that my own feeling is we don’t have a psychological system to capture that. Guns are a prime issue.”

President Donald Trump has repeatedly made mention of the intention to focus on the mental health issue during interviews and with tweets, but has been reluctant to make any clear statement on the intention to reevaluate gun policy in America.

The students hope to push legislation in that direction. On March 24, kids and families will hit the streets of Washington D.C. to demand the end of gun violence and mass shootings in schools through a protest called March For Our Lives. Although the site has not designated a time for the event just yet, satellite marches are already popping up all over the country (details can be found on their Facebook page). The event is being organized and led by students.

“The fact that we even have to do this is appalling. Our job is to go to school, learn, and not take a bullet,” said Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Cameron Kasky.

The students are garnering support from some very big names. George Clooney and wife Amal, have pledged $500,000 towards the organization of the March for Our Lives campaign. “Our family will be there on March 24 to stand side by side with this incredible generation of young people from all over the country, and in the name of our children Ella and Alexander, we’re donating to help pay for this ground-breaking event,” said George. “Our children’s lives depend on it.”

Oprah Winfrey, being inspired by the Clooneys’ sentiment, also agree to join the ranks tweeting, “George and Amal, I couldn’t agree with you more. I am joining forces with you and will match your $500,000 donation to ‘March For Our Lives.’  These inspiring young people remind me of the Freedom Riders of the 60s who also said we’ve had ENOUGH and our voices will be heard.”

Filmmaker Steven Spielberg and  former DreamWorks executive Jeffrey Katzenberg also gave matched the donation.

Other planned events:

Women’s March organizers are planning a national school walk out to protest gun violence and demand that Congress pass legislation to keep the country safe. “Women’s March Youth EMPOWER is calling for students, teachers, school administrators, parents and allies to take part in a #NationalSchoolWalkout for 17 minutes at 10 a.m. across every time zone on March 14,  to protest Congress’ inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods,” they said in a statement.

Another national walk-out is being coordinated via Change.Org for Friday, April 20th, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting. A student organizer is requesting that students wear orange, walk out of school, and  protest online and in their communities for a National High School Student Walk Out.