trigger warning: death, gun violence
This year, February 14th fell on both Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday. The scene here in Las Vegas showed people in the streets with ashes on their foreheads, families in their hearts, and roses and gifts for loved ones in their hands. But February 14th was not just a day filled with love, hearts, and candy galore – but rather one overshadowed by a devastating tragedy that the world now knows as the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.
On the afternoon of February 14, 2018, students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, faced the unthinkable: Gunshots ringing through the halls of their peaceful campus, classmates ducking under desks, loved ones texting each other goodbye and friends dying before their eyes.
In total, the shooter murdered 17 people, tearing apart the lives of their families and friends. That afternoon, the Stoneman Douglas shooting became one of the deadliest school massacres ever, taking even more lives than the 1999 Columbine High School shooting.
Americans, especially those affected by gun violence, went to bed even more deeply disturbed about the state of gun violence in our country, recognizing that the last school shooting occurred just nine days prior at a Maryland high school.
And just like that, a student-led movement for change was born.
Students like Cameron Kasky formed advocacy groups, such as NeverAgainMSD, which advocates for gun reform and tells the stories of the survivors of the Stoneman Douglas shooting.
Survivors have also mobilized to build and create a brand-name movement called March For Our Lives. On March 24, these student activists will march on Washington D.C., along with thousands of other protesters in cities across the country, to rally for gun reform legislation.
These brave survivors and student activists are unafraid to step up and make a change in their country. But what happened in Parkland also hits home in Las Vegas, and speaks to the power of student activism to transform our country.
Just a few months ago, Las Vegas faced one of the worst shootings in U.S. history, leaving 58 dead and 851 injured at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival.
On the night of the shooting, I had left the Las Vegas Strip area and headed home – only to be greeted by the bombardment of tweets and text messages asking if I was okay. After learning about the attack, I was shaken. As a survivor of gun violence – having lived through the 2014 Las Vegas shootings – I know that the issue at hand isn’t about one person or even a group of people. Instead, it all comes down to one thing: Guns.
Across the nation, we’ve seen so many lives taken by gun violence. In the first two months of this year alone, we’ve seen eight school shootings across the United States, and according to Mass Shooting Tracker, there have already been 48 mass shootings that have taken nearly 100 lives. We’ve seen the true damage that guns inflict on our society, yet America’s corrupt, power-hungry gun lobby – led by the NRA – continues to use their influence to maintain the status quo.
Thankfully, my generation isn’t buying it. At least 80% of Millennials and Generation Z’ers believe that our country has a deep problem with gun violence. This problem isn’t just in our schools, but also within communities of color and low-income communities, where residents often fall victim to heartbreaking levels of gun violence in their neighborhoods. Young people are also pissed off because adults aren’t doing anything about the problem. Congress is busy fighting itself and isn’t getting anything done – not for undocumented families, students, youth, the older generation… no one. That’s why it’s truly up to us to make change in our communities.
Young people have been busy since February 14. We no longer need our legislators’ thoughts and prayers, especially in Las Vegas.
Along with the mobilization efforts across the country, Women’s March National is hosting a #NationalWalkOutDay for students across the country.
On March 14 at 10 a.m., we’ll walk out of our classrooms for 17 minutes to protect Congress’ inaction. Here in Las Vegas, there are at least 11 different student-led actions at local high schools and colleges, and students, parents and even administrators are expected to show up in the hundreds. At my college, I’ve had the opportunity to organize our UNLV #NationalSchoolWalkOut with other student activists, where we plan to rally at the UNLV Free Speech Zone to demand our legislators take action.
From Parkland, FL to Las Vegas, NV, communities across the country who have been ripped apart by these gun-related tragedies are tired of watching their communities suffer in the wake of these horrific events.
If Congress refuses to take action to resolve our national crisis of gun violence, we must take it on ourselves. What happened in Parkland and Las Vegas is not acceptable. We’re hitting the streets to protest with our fellow student activists across the country to say: enough is enough.