Exactly one month ago, the world watched as Americans took to the streets to march for their lives and demand that legislators enact common sense gun reform.
Sparked by youth activists who were spurred to action after the Parkland shooting, we marched to protect the lives of young people in communities that have been ravaged by gun violence recently – and for the diverse, marginalized (and often brutalized) neighborhoods like my hometown of North Las Vegas, where the sounds of gunshots and terror of school lockdowns are part of our everyday lives.
But after taking it to the streets (many of us for the very first time), we have to ask: What’s next?
This question hits especially close to home in Nevada, where a gunman left 58 dead and 851 injured at the Route 91 Harvest music festival shooting on October 1, 2017. After the Las Vegas mass shooting, some said we need security checkpoint scanners at the entrances of hotels and casinos on the Las Vegas Strip or that we should only ban weapons from casinos and hotels. But we know these are just distractions from the most obvious solutions right in front of us: a ban on semi-automatic weapons and comprehensive background checks.
My peers and I are also asking what’s next because we feel a sense of urgency to not only change the hearts and minds of elected officials, but also overcome the NRA’s powerful opposition.
As a student in Nevada and one of the lead student organizers for the March for Our Lives Las Vegas, I’ve heard this sense of urgency in the voices of Nevada’s youth activists who have pushed adults and older activists aside and demanded the media tell our stories.
I’ve seen this sense of urgency in the sign-making parties, tweets and the march in Las Vegas, where more than 2,000 Nevadans marched in solidarity with protesters across the country. Most important, we need elected officials to feel this pressure at the voting booth.
We’re not just marching for our lives – we’ll also be voting for them.
The midterm elections are just the start. Parkland youth activists David Hogg, Cameron Kasky, Sarah Chadwick, Emma Gonzalez and Zion Kelly have released plans to sustain this youth-led movement into a get-out-the-vote (GOTV), voter registration campaign via the March For Our Lives website. These student activists are also partnering up with the Town Hall Project, a nonprofit that empowers Americans across the country to organize town hall events that hold their elected officials accountable for their votes.
To date, there have been 500 planned town hall events– all to demand that federal, state, and local policymakers create long-lasting, sustainable change to end this epidemic.
From voter registration drives to round tables and town hall events, youth activists in Nevada and around the country are pumped up and ready to sustain the March For Our Lives movement. Many of my friends are also preparing to run for office, lobby in Carson City or team up with gun reform groups like the Brady Campaign, Moms Demand Action, and Everytown for Gun Safety.
What started as a march is becoming a movement.
Karl Catarata is a Filipino-American college student, author, and activist and a communications fellow for the Center for Community Change Action.