By Erica Copeland
They’re Not Alone – School Walkout for Gun Control Joins Rich History of Student Protests
On Wednesday, March 14, droves of students across the U.S. left their classrooms and took to the streets to protest government inaction on gun control legislation that could prevent mass school shootings like the most recent event at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that has shaken the nation for two decades.
The Women’s March Youth Empower, the protest organizer, said this demonstration is to honor the 17 students and teachers who lost their lives in the nation’s most recent mass shooting tragedy.
But broadly, Women’s March wants to call out political inaction on the issue around gun control. The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, the site of the Valentine’s day shooting, are staging their own March on Washington in Washington D.C. next month. Thousands are expected to attend.
This new wave of student activism has drawn mixed reviews from lawmakers, media, and the public. Some conservative lawmakers have cast doubt on the sincerity of the students’ efforts at gun reform. They claim adults are influencing the teenagers who are not able to organize social protest on their own.
But others laud the students for using their voice in politics to stand up for themselves and their peers, especially as they are most affected by government delays on this issue. It is their lives at stake as one of the famous mottos claims, these students are fighting for their lives.
Despite public skepticism, the Parkland students have continued to push their concerns on social and televised media. Now it appears the government is listening. Many are amazed that children have been able to inspire political action where adults have failed.
On the same day as the student walkouts, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on school safety that would enforce stricter background checks for potential gun owners. It would also investigate and create policy to guide law enforcement agencies like the FBI on how to detect mass shooters earlier on before lives are lost.
This federal bill is followed by another piece of legislation that came out of Florida’s state legislature earlier this month that would raise the age of gun ownership from 18 to 21 and certify teachers to carry arms in school.
This movement in student activism is not new.
It is a reminder of past acts by school children over the last half century who took to the streets to exercise their citizenship, participate more fully in our democracy, and create outlets to express their discontent.
Here is a timeline of high school student protests over the years. Most of the demonstrations listed are skewed toward the past 15 years, but include demonstrations that go back as far as the mid-1900s.