By Nathaniel Valyo, National News Writer
High school students across the nation are organizing protests against current gun laws in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida on Valentine’s Day that left 17 dead.
The gunman was identified as Nikolas Cruz, 19, a former student of Stoneman Douglas High School who was expelled for disciplinary reasons one year ago. Cruz has been described as an emotionally disturbed individual with an infatuation with guns. Scott Israel, sheriff of Broward County, has stated that the pictures found on Cruz’s social media profiles are “very, very disturbing.” Cruz purchased the gun used in the attack legally, considering the minimum age qualifications of 18 years for obtaining a firearm.
Students are turning to various social media platforms to express their outrage, with hashtags on Twitter such as #Enough and #NeverAgain. School-walkouts nationwide are scheduled for March 14, one month after the Parkland massacre, and nationwide protests are scheduled for March 24 and April 20, during the anniversary of the 1999 Columbine High School shootings, which took place in Colorado.
On Monday, February 19, seventeen students in Washington, D.C. protested outside of the White House by lying on the ground outside of the gates for three minutes, symbolizing both the seventeen victims of the shooting and the apparent amount of time it takes to purchase a gun in the United States. The idea for the gesture came from Eleanor Nuechterlein and Whitney Bowen, two juniors at a high school outside of Washington, D.C., who have also founded the Teens for Gun Reform group. “Politicians should have done something long ago,” said Nuechterlein.
Survivors from the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting attended a town hall-style event in Sunrise, Florida, last Wednesday, February 21, to demand gun reform. Lawmakers in attendance were U.S. Representative Ted Deutch (D-FL), Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Senator Marco Rubio, the sole Republican on the panel. Debates at the town hall grew heated, with many questions being directed toward Rubio, mostly coming from classmates and family members of students lost in the shooting. President Donald Trump and Florida governor Rick Scott both turned down a request to attend.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in an official statement that President Trump supports strengthening the federal background check system when purchasing a gun. “While discussions are ongoing and revisions are being considered, the President is supportive of efforts to improve the federal background check system”, Sanders was quoted in her statement. Although calls to restrict guns in Congress have typically failed in the past, the White House statement, in addition to comments from Republicans in Congress in favor of supporting stronger gun-control measures, hint at a coming shift in gun legislation.
Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) claimed that the White House statement on improved gun background-checks was “another sign that the politics of gun violence are shifting rapidly,” in a statement made on Twitter. He later said in a statement that “we are responsible for a level of mass atrocity that happens in this country with zero parallel anywhere else.”
While lawmakers consider serious changes, students across the country remain at the forefront of the gun-control debate. Universities like MIT, Boston University, Tulane, DePaul, and the California Institute of Technology have affirmed prospective students that if they are disciplined by their high schools for protesting gun-control, it will have no effect on their admission decision.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, February 27th print edition.
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