On the afternoon of Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a 19-year-old male former student entered the school's "freshmen building" with an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle and activated the fire alarm and began to shoot indiscriminately at students and teachers. At 2:21 p.m., staff members heard gunfire and activated the school's "code red" lockdown, over the next six minutes 14 students and three staff members were shot and killed during the school shooting.
What followed the shooting is what has become the status quo. Democrats called for stronger gun control, and Republicans claimed that the problem was with mental health, not guns, and thoughts and prayers were offered. Donald Trump used the opportunity to attack the investigation of possible collusion between his campaign and Russia in the 2016 election.
What changed the course of the conversation following the shooting was the choice of the student survivors to not remain silent but rather become the leading voices in support of gun control. The most notable example is a speech by Marjory Stoneman Douglas senior Emma Gonzalez who rebuked Republican's "thoughts and prayers" and criticized them for accepting money from the NRA that has repeatedly blocked attempts at stronger gun control. On Feb. 21, survivors were able to confront their representatives and senators face-to-face at a town hall hosted by CNN. Students grilled Senator Marco Rubio on his stance on gun control and the fact that he receives money from the NRA. Survivors organized a nationwide march for March 24, to call for legislative action.
Despite everything that these students had gone through, they took action to try and ensure that no other students would go through it again. Whether or not you agree with their stances on gun control, these students are trying to make a difference. The courage of these students to take action after what they've been through and engage in the political process of this country should be commemorated, and by most people, including many Republicans like Rubio, it has. But that's not all people.
Following the students' calls for action, claims started to appear online that the tragedy they went through was fake, that the dead were never real, and the survivors were actors reading rehearsed lines. Others chastised the survivors who have since spoken out for being children getting into business that should be left for adults. They even went so far as to claim that the Florida legislature voting against a bill to ban semi-automatic weapons was the worst thing to happen to them since they got told to get summer jobs. It is absolutely heartless to make such a claim in light of the horror these students faced.
The decision by these students to try and start a national and lasting dialogue to put an end to mass shootings in this country is an example of how young social media savvy students can and should be taking action to make a difference. High school and college students who are just reaching the age where they are eligible to vote are the ones most likely to actually make a difference if they actually go out and vote. That doesn't mean all young people have to start a national movement like the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas have, but they must at least vote.
This opinion is calling out to Mt. SAC students, many of whom are probably wondering how can they make a difference when it seems like any race that matters is already decided. The truth is, they're only already decided if everyone lets them be. If students at Mt. SAC want to help make a difference, Mt. SAC's owns congressional district could help Democrats take back the House of Representatives. Republican Ed Royce recently announced that he was retiring from Congress meaning that there's no incumbent that will have an advantage in the upcoming elections. Whether you want to help flip the house or try and keep it there, there are a number of candidates running on both sides of the aisle. Why not look into them and volunteer for a candidate that matches your views?
There are also a number of political student groups at Mt. SAC that you can be a part of or even go as far to start your own! High school and college students get to add their voice in an election when they've never been added before. Things won't change if the same old voices are the only ones being listened to. Things can change if new voices are being added to the conversation.
The survivors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas aren't leading the way because they have a new stance. Democrats have been fighting for control. What they added are new voices that personally suffered from the horrors of gun violence. They are not willing to be silenced. Don't let your voice be silenced because you're too young or because you think things don't change. If every young person lets his or her voice be heard, it will change the conversation.