Youth Activists: U.S Students for Gun Reform

Lorie Shaull

Following February’s tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida, youth activists have been vocal in their stance against gun violence and calling for stricter gun laws.

On February 14th, a student gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida. The tragic shooting, which took the lives of 14 students and 3 adults, was a reminder that even after Columbine (1999) and Sandy Hook (2012) school shootings, no changes in gun laws had been made by Congress.

Parkland students and families were immediately vocal in their stance against gun violence, calling for stricter gun laws. Three weeks after the Douglas High School shooting, the student activist movement has given rise to school walkouts nationwide, town halls meetings, protests outside of Florida state capitol buildings, as well as broader public pressure on Congress.

The Survivors created the Never Again movement,  which calls for stricter  gun laws and urges students everywhere to join them in Washington, DC for “March for our Lives” on March 24th. The students are adept at using all social media platforms-Twitter, Facebook, as well as speaking in media interviews and press conferences. Their actions have prompted several companies to announce they will no longer sell guns or cut ties from the National Rifle Association ( NRA). Companies such as Delta Airlines have stopped providing discounts to NRA members. Currently, Congress is discussing a bill to ban bump stock, a device that allows semi-automatic weapons like AR-15, to mimic firing rates of automatic guns.

Youth activism has been a hallmark of movements throughout the world. In the U.S., children and teenagers have been instrumental in putting pressure on government officials, attracting media attention and taking brave stands in prominent social movements. In 1955, fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin, refused to give up her bus seat in in Montgomery, Alabama, nine months prior to Rosa Parks. In 1957, Little Rock Nine high school students enrolled in Little Rock Central High school as a push for integration in schools. In the 1960s and 70s, college students led a movement against the Vietnam War. More recently, four young student immigrants traveled from Miami to Washington, DC to push for a long-term solution to deportations, resulting in the creation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Several organizations featured on Peace Direct’s Peace Insight, an online resource for local peacebuilding around the world, are focused on youth or are led by youth members. For example, The Roh Youth Network in Pakistan works to improve the status of young people and promote non-violence. Our new U.S mapping, which provides listing of local organizations working for peace in their communities, shows that the work of youth for peace and change is happening here in the U.S. In many ways.  Internationally, youth from around the world are working with the United Nations to implement the Youth, Peace, and Security Resolution 2250 in their societies and globally.  Some of Peace Direct’s partners, including Saba Ismail of Aware Girls, Pakistan, and Martine Ekomo, our Local Peacebuilding Expert in Central African Republic, are leaders in this work.  These local and global youth-led initiatives encompass the same spirit as the Parkland youth activists. It is their actions that will awaken the national consciousness to the need for social change.

Peace Direct will join the March 24th March for Our Lives as part of our work to support local peacebuilding. We hope others will join us!

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