Article by Meghan Beakley
It didn’t take long after the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida for people to demand change. A common occurrence after events such as these, gun control is once again being debated across our country. With polls showing that the majority of Americans are in favor of passing some legislation that would make gun laws more strict, it is unclear if any changes will actually be enacted. Nonetheless, individuals and organizations across the nation are taking a stand.
After the shooting on February 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, not even a full week passed before students announced that they were planning a march in Washington, D.C. on March 24 to advocate for stricter gun control measures. In addition to the D.C. march, additional events are being planned for several other cities in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. The central march in Washington is expected to attract at least 500,000 attendees and has gained widespread support and media attention.
In addition to the march, other planned protests included a nationwide school walkout that was held on March 14, the one month anniversary of the Parkland shooting. Thousands of students from Maine to Hawaii walked out of class for seventeen minutes – one minute for each victim of the Parkland shooting.
“We can’t ignore the issues of gun control that this tragedy raises,” said Cameron Kasky, one of the main organizers of the March for Our Lives and a survivor of the Parkland shooting in an op-ed for CNN. “And so, I’m asking — no, demanding — we take action now.”
Many are optimistic that these protests will spread awareness about gun violence and pressure the government into passing stricter gun laws. In a statement issued by March for Our Lives, the group organizing the Washington march, they said, “Change is coming. And it starts now, inspired by and led by the kids who are our hope for the future.”
Aside from marches and protests, there is also potential progress being made in Congress. Pennsylvania senator Pat Toomey announced on February 20 that he would be reintroducing a bill he drafted with West Virginia senator Joe Manchin that would expand background checks for all gun purchases. Toomey and Manchin introduced the bill after the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting left 26 people dead. It failed to pass the senate in 2013 and 2015.
In a statement posted to Twitter, Toomey said the bill “would achieve our shared goal of keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, the dangerously mentally ill, and terrorists while respecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans.”
Still, some retailers are already taking action. On February 28, Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods announced that they were raising the minimum age for gun buyers to 21. Walmart, the largest gun retailer in the U.S., also announced that they would no longer sell items resembling assault style rifles. Dick’s Sporting Goods similarly announced that they would no longer sell assault rifles.
Additionally, several major U.S. companies have announced they would be cutting ties with the National Rifle Association, including Delta and United Airlines and Metlife Insurance.
These actions, although on a smaller scale than legislation, represent a change in momentum that has swept the nation. The issue of gun control is often divisive and complicated. These preliminary measures appear to be a step in the right direction and are pressuring legislators, companies, and other influential figures to take a stand against gun violence in our country.
Feature Image Credit: Stephen Melkisethian