There's been a lot of discussion surrounding gun violence and the need for stricter gun control over the past month. After a shooter attacked Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida On Feb. 14 and tragically took the lives of 17 victims, the student survivors have rallied so that nothing like what happened in their school should ever happen again. Several rallies and protests have been organized to raise awareness to this cause, and one of them is coming up very soon. So what is the national student walkout for, and can you participate?
On March 14, students in classrooms across the country are planning to walk out of their classrooms at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes across all time zones. The walkout is set to last for 17 minutes in order to honor the 17 lives that were lost in the Parkland shooting.
These students and educators want to demand that Congress take serious action on gun control, and there are several policy demands listed on the walkout organizers' website. The demands include expanding background checks to the purchases of all guns, and passing gun violence restraining order laws that would allow for temporary removal of a firearm should there be reasonable suspicion a person might become dangerous. Another major demand is that legislators ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. The list of demands on the website for organizers Women’s March Youth EMPOWER states,
In this country there is a fine line between wanting to be protected, and wanting to intimidate others. It’s all in the title - assault weapons don’t protect, they harm and too easily these deadly weapons can be bought, sold, and distributed within the borders of our nation. How can we enjoy “freedom,” if our own country condones the selling of deadly, military-grade weapons which threaten our very existence? The right to bear arms should not be the right to kill.
The pressure these students and the organizers of the walkout are putting on banning assault weapons is directly related to the Parkland shooting. The weapon used by the shooter was an AR-15 rifle — a gun that falls under the assault weapons category. These are the kinds of weapons that all too often fall into the wrong hands and do serious damage, as occurred in Parkland on Feb. 14.
Another demand takes aim at law enforcement, calling for an act that would stop militarizing the police. Youth EMPOWER's website highlights that in 2017 there were only 14 days when police didn’t kill someone, according to Mapping Police Violence. So while it is important to discuss the gun violence that is experienced in school shootings, this group feels it's important to discuss state-sponsored gun violence as well.
If you're a student and want to organize a walkout for your school to participate in you can register on the protest's website to get involved. And if you're not a student you can still support the movement by subscribing to the Women’s March Youth EMPOWER mailing list to stay up to date with their efforts in advocacy.
If you're not in high school or attending a college or university, this demonstration is not exactly designed for you. But being aware of what these students are standing up for and supporting their efforts is extremely important.
The students that survived the shooting have been vocal about their experience and have become prominent advocates for change. This walkout is being organized by EMPOWER, the youth branch of the Women's March — the same group that hosts annual marches across the country of the same name. Their website describes the upcoming student walkout as follows,
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, 2018 to protest Congress’ inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods. We need action. Students and allies are organizing the national school walkout to demand Congress pass legislation to keep us safe from gun violence at our schools, on our streets and in our homes and places of worship.
With over 2,000 walkouts registered already, this is set to be a historic moment in this country's history. I can only hope that lawmakers in D.C. will be watching and actually try to listen to what these students have to say.