About a month after a gunman murdered 17 people at a Florida high school, several vocal teenagers who survived the attack have captivated America with their impassioned calls for gun reform. The ensuing wave of scorn and support for the students — and their message — has been particularly volatile, but the formative event of the movement is almost here. The March for Our Lives in D.C. starts at noon on Saturday, March 24, and as many as 500,000 people are expected to rally to call on lawmakers to take action against mass shootings, according to the organizers' website.
The march will be along Pennsylvania Avenue and is set to start at noon at the Third Street intersection, though participants will likely gather hours earlier. Make sure you check out designated pedestrian entrances and drop-off points, because certain road closures will prevent you from entering. Pedestrians can enter at Pennsylvania Avenue and 12th Street NW, Constitution Avenue and 7th Street NW, or Indiana Avenue and 7th Street NW, and there is a drop off spot at 7th and Maryland streets SW.
Additionally, more than 800 "sibling" marches are planned worldwide. The Washington Post reported that organizers initially had hoped to rally on the Mall, but a student film crew was first to submit its application for that space.
The Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida again dusted up America's gun control debate, with many student survivors leading the way in a push for gun reform. In the weeks that followed the shooting, survivors challenged Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida on his refusal to accept gun control legislation as a viable agent for change. Survivors also visited the White House for a "listening session," after which President Donald Trump voiced meandering stances on tighter gun laws and parroted the National Rifle Association talking point that schools should train teachers to use deadly force on potential shooters.
What Americans have arguably never seen before is such a strong and consistent message delivered by student survivors. Though experts are somewhat divided on whether mass shootings are on the rise, it is clear that they have become increasingly deadlier. On March 13, activists placed 7,000 pairs of shoes on the front lawn of the Capitol building in D.C. — symbolizing the number of lives lost since the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
The survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting have grown up in a media environment that is saturated in coverage of mass shootings — even in their home state. The 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, the deadliest mass shooting on record at the time, took place just three hours north of the Parkland high school.
While media coverage of the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, which left 15 people dead, focused heavily on the motivations of the shooters, what seems to be new this time around is the strong convictions of survivors like Emma Gonzalez, who called the plan to arm teachers "stupid" on 60 Minutes.
The 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting contributed in part to Rubio's decision to seek re-election, according to The New York Times. And last week, Rubio came the closest to cracking down on guns yet, with a solution he touted on Fox News as "red flag" gun laws.
"It allows somebody to go to court, either a family member, someone that lives with you, or law enforcement, present evidence to a judge, clear and convincing evidence that this person is a danger to themselves or others, and then the judge can issue a restraining order," Rubio said. "That keeps that person from buying any guns."
Just a week after the Parkland shooting, Florida lawmakers voted down a ban on assault weapons, in front of visibly emotional students in the audience.
The students are continuing to speak out for their own safety, and they're looking for more support. If you can't trek to D.C., you can find a march closest to you on the organizers' website.