March for Our Lives students protest for stricter gun regulations

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On Saturday, March 24, 200,000 protestors gathered in Washington DC for the March for Our Lives demonstration to enact stricter gun laws in the United States. It was created and organized by #NeverAgain, a group of students who survived the mass shooting that occurred at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14.

Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control advocacy organization, helped these students plan and execute the event. It inspired hundreds of gun rallies all over the US and other cities across the world including London, Paris, Tokyo and Berlin.

Following the eighth American mass shooting in 2018 alone, the goal behind this movement is to address lawmakers who have the power to implement more comprehensive gun control legislation.

The petition on the March for Our Lives website has three central demands:

“1. Passing a law to ban the sale of assault weapons. 2. Prohibiting the sale of high-capacity magazines such as the ones the shooter at our school — and so many other recent mass shootings used. 3. Closing the loophole in our background check law that allows dangerous people who shouldn’t be allowed to purchase firearms to slip through the cracks and buy guns online or at gun shows.”

The march in Washington was a rousing, impassioned rally that included countless memorable moments and speakers who all gave their voices towards a cause that is quickly gaining more and more recognition and has managed to reach all edges of the world.

A standout from the day was an incredibly moving and empowering speech from Emma González, one of the strongest, unwavering forces backing the increased demands for changing current gun regulations. As a survivor of the shooting that took place at her high school, she has been an unshakable voice behind microphones and social media alike — standing resolutely on podiums, determined to fight for the rights that she and countless other students like her are entitled to have.

Emotional, yet relentlessly powerful, Emma assumed her position onstage in front of a crowd of thousands with convicted resolve.
   Relaying a message honouring her 17 classmates who lost their lives — she stood in silence for six minutes and 20-seconds — the exact length of time it took for the gunman to kill each student that day.

Protests like this may seem pointless to some, but their influence is greater than cleverly worded signs, celebrity Instagram photos and the nonsensical conspiracy theories encouraged by Fox News and fabricated by right-wing meme pages.

Watching footage of the sobbing crowd and Emma’s stony, tear-streaked face as she passed on a message that spoke volumes — it’s difficult not to be moved by her words and actions. A 17-year-old high school senior who has made herself known through her activism is admirable and she has become a driving force for a cause that needs a strong leader like her to support and move it forward.

Martin Luther King Jr’s granddaughter, nine-year-old Yolanda Renee King, also made an appearance at the rally. Directly referencing her grandfather’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech that was delivered close to where she stood on Saturday, she said, “I have a dream that enough is enough. That this should be a gun-free world — period.”

Naomi Waddler, an 11-year-old fifth-grader from Alexandria, Virginia, represented African American girls affected by gun violence who are ignored and overlooked by the media because of their race. In her words, girls who are “simply statistics” rather than “vibrant, beautiful girls who are full of potential.”

At the march in New York Manhattan, Paul McCartney stated, “One of my best friends was shot not far from here,” referring to John Lennon, who was fatally gunned down near Central Park in 1980.

Although this raging cry for change has attracted numerous famous names and adults who support the teenagers rallying for a safer world to live in, the voices that we should be actively listening to the most are the children and young people who have experienced these tragedies firsthand.

We should be encouraging the input from the marginalized groups who are affected by these instances of violence everyday and listen to the words of the unheard and ignored — the victims of these atrocities who don’t get a platform to share what they have every right to say.

Emma González has become one of the key faces representing this movement because she is an example of how political expression can be used to effectively influence others like her to stand up for what is right.

Silencing the voices of these kids because they’re “too young to understand what they’re talking about” should only be cancelled out once they’re too young to be faced with the threat of dying in a classroom from a semi-automatic weapon.

They’re too young to barricade themselves from bullets behind desks, send what they think will be their last words to their loved ones and have their lives ended simply because they went to school that day and were caught in the crossfire.

Protests like this may seem pointless to some, but their influence is greater than cleverly worded signs, celebrity Instagram photos and the nonsensical conspiracy theories encouraged by Fox News and fabricated by right-wing meme pages.

Events like March for Our Lives hold endless power and merit when they have the unified support of thousands of students who are unwilling to back down from a movement that needs the attention it’s been getting to help protect their generation and the ones following it.

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