A year since Parkland: Continuing the fight against gun violence

Pascale Zissu

To many, Valentine’s Day is seen as a day of love and chocolate. However, to the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the day brings memories of cowering for their lives and watching their friends shot down in front of them. On February 14th, 2018, seventeen members of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School community were killed in a brutal school shooting.

For me, the day initially seemed as mundane as any other. But when I returned home from school, I saw my father standing worriedly in front of the television with the news on. I sat down in front of the TV and listened to the reporter say that seventeen people had died. Retreating to my phone, I saw my peers’ posts on social media sending condolences to friends or family who had lost loved ones.

Although I did not live through it, Parkland was still a traumatic experience for me; it was the first time I fully realized the gun violence issues that our country and my generation face. As a teenager, I feel more aware of the world around me and my place in it, so seeing a school shooting occur in an environment which is not dissimilar to ours is disquieting. A school shooting should never happen, but unfortunately, I have become numbed by each shooting that has occurred since Parkland, because they seem to happen so frequently, which saddens and frightens me. If 17 humans with rich, complex lives, loving families and friends can be shot down in a manner of minutes, then why can’t I?

Many had the same awakening as I in the face of the Parkland shooting. It provoked hundreds of school students throughout the city to leave class and attend a student organized rally in Washington Square Park. As a result of this protest, and others, including the Parkland students’ March for Our Lives, Everytown For Gun Safety, and Moms Demand Action, 123 state gun laws have been passed since Parkland.

While this progress is encouraging, I feel that the fight for gun reform has died down as time has passed. Directly following the shooting, there were numerous rallies and school walkouts like the one that occurred at our school, as well as frequent posts on social media and discussions of the topic within school communities. In more recent months, however, I have seen fewer posts, taken part in fewer gun reform discussions, and heard about fewer rallies. But the issue has not gone away: according to Moms Demand Action, over twelve hundred American children have been killed by guns since Parkland, and the country still has not yet seen long overdue gun reform on a federal level.

With assessments, homework, extracurriculars, and teenage drama, high school students are often overwhelmed. If you tack on the palpable fear of being shot in school, our day-to-day can become torturous.

I personally do feel safe at school, but it is upsetting to know that not all students can say the same. No one should have to question their daily safety, especially children. Because we are fortunate to have security guards and thorough plans in place in the event of various emergencies, it is easy to believe gun violence will never personally affect us. But, even if our personal safety from guns is guaranteed, we should still fight for gun reform to protect others from experiencing the tragedy of gun violence.

Just because Parkland took place a year ago does not mean we can stop fighting for gun reform and public safety. Two days ago, the House passed the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, which if passed by the Senate, would modify federal gun laws and require background checks for all gun sales. This is a step in the right direction, but we need to continue fighting for gun reform. As both teenagers and future leaders of America, it is our job to make sure children are safe from the risk of shootings. I encourage you to participate in protests and rallies; you can find information about them on websites of organizations such as Moms Demand Action. Donate to these organizations’ campaigns and text ‘CHANGE’ to 954-954 to get involved with March For Our Lives. Finally, write letters and call your senator. But whatever you do, don’t stop fighting for change.