Politics

The Teens Who Survived Last Week’s School Shooting Are Not Copping Pro-Gun Bullshit

#NeverAgain

#neveragain

It’s been eight days since a guy with an assault rifle walked into Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida and killed seventeen people. In those eight days, the teenage survivors have started a movement demanding urgent gun control, and it’s nothing short of extraordinary.

Starting just hours after the worst experience of their lives, these kids have taken to the national stage to demand change that’s long overdue. In just a week, they’ve met personally with the President, held protests, gone up against the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA) and pro-gun senator Marco Rubio, spearheaded fundraisers, and appeared on national television again and again.

And they’re starting to get results. They’ve secured donations from the likes of Oprah and George Clooney for an upcoming march, forced Trump to meet with them personally to hear them out on gun control, and spurred more than a few gun owners to begin sawing their assault rifles into pieces. They’re small steps, but these kids are determined to make actual change, and they’re going to get it done.

These Teens Have Something To Say, And They’re Making Us Listen

The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas have grown up with social media, and they know how to use it to great effect. Namely, they’ve been using it to absolutely slam anyone who tries to make this tragedy about anything other than gun control, to correct people who try to dismiss them simply because they’re teens, and to post viral manifestos for the change they intend to create.

They’re just as eloquent in person, too — so eloquent that they’ve faced a spate of people accusing them of being crisis actors (we can’t believe this needs to be said, but they’re not).

Now that that’s settled, here’s a video of 18-year-old survivor Emma González, giving a speech that was instantly historic.

It’s a powerful moment. With tears in her eyes, she yells that “we need to pay attention to the fact that this isn’t just a mental health issue — [the shooter] wouldn’t have harmed that many students with a knife”.

She calls on the government to stop blaming the victims of shooting attacks, and to stop doing nothing: “politicians who sit in their gilded house and senate seats funded by the NRA, doing nothing to prevent this. We call BS.”

A few days later, here’s a video of González’s classmate Delaney Tarr, making this point to lawmakers directly.

“We’re not here to be patted on the back,” she says. “We’re not here to be told we’re great, that we’re doing so much, because we know what we’re doing, and we’re doing it for a reason. We’re doing it so that our legislators will make a change. So that they will take us seriously, so that they will not dismiss us any longer, so they won’t reschedule.”

“We came here prepared, and we’re going to come to every single meeting with every single legislator prepared. We know what we want. We want gun reform, we want common sense gun laws, we want stronger mental health checks and background checks to work in conjunction.

“We want a better age limit. We want privatised selling to be completely reformed so you can’t just walk into a building with $130 and walk out with an AR-15. We want change, and we know how to get this change.”

She finishes up by pointing out that she and her peers will be able to vote soon, and threaten to vote pro-gun politicians out of office. Looking at the platform she and her friends now have, it’s not an empty threat.

Marching For Their Lives

After only eight days, these teens are getting results. Not the ones they want, yet — their politicians have voted down meaningful gun control in that time, and no one has yet committed to doing anything concrete.

But this is a long game, and these kids are playing to win. They’ve set up base camp in their parents’ living rooms (seriously), and founded the #NeverAgain movement. They’re planning a national “March For Our Lives” on March 24, for which they’ve raised over $1.6 million in three days. George and Amal Clooney have pledged to donate $500,000; Oprah has since tweeted to say she will too.

And today, these kids have spent hours at an emotional town hall meeting with pro-gun senator Marco Rubio and National Rifle Association representative Dana Loesch. To say the teens won the debate is an understatement: just look at this video of student Cameron Kasky grilling Marco Rubio on whether he’ll continue to accept donations from the NRA.

These teens are better than all of us. They give us faith that gun control is going to happen in the US, hopefully soon.

If you want to follow what they’re doing and support their activism, here are the Twitter handles of the teens mentioned in this article. The website for March For Our Lives is here.