Protesting for Our Lives

Photo Courtesy of the Agence France-Presse

Photo Courtesy of the Agence France-Presse

Sometimes I feel that grief has a limit. The first time I can remember this happening, it was Sandy Hook. I got the call, and I grieved for weeks. That was December 14th, 2012. Fifty-nine school shootings later, I heard the news of Parkland, a school shooting happening only thirty  miles from my place of residence. I barely felt a thing. Even though a close family friend goes to Stoneman Douglas and her wellbeing was up in the air for hours, even though my own sister is still in high school and is the same age as many of the victims, even though I had the realization that it is scarily easy for me or a loved one to be gunned down for pursuing an education—for existing—I felt no grief.

What I felt instead was anger. I felt angry that innocent students had been slaughtered for so long. I felt angry that we had come to accept this as reality.   

School shootings are often traumatic experiences, and yet many survivors are left feeling thankful that not many more lives were taken in their wake. Ajay Mahesh, a student who has survived a school shooting, detailed their own gratitude for their situation.

“After the shooting, I realized how lucky I was that the shooter only had a shotgun and not a semi-auto or any other gun that can fire at a rapid rate. In my community, it was a different environment as many people were hush hush about the shooting,” Mahesh had recalled.

The resilience of survivors is inspiring, but the nagging factor for me remains not that the shooter could’ve had a semi-automatic weapon, like the AR-15 rifle, which has been the primary weapon used in school shootings due to what the NRA describes as it being, “customizable, adaptable, reliable and accurate”. The fact that the shooter had access to a high-powered and deadly weapon without background inspection or license is part of the problem. The fact that this weapon was brought into a school setting while children in predominantly communities of color are subject to daily searches is part of the problem. The ability of a student to carry out arbitrary killing with so much ease and support from institutions is the problem.

“It's important to keep the pressure up, since, as we've learned, Congress won't do anything unless they think that they absolutely have to,” Tiffany Wang ‘21 asserted.

About this, Wang is correct, as the NRA Gun Lobby being one of the largest in Congress. Despite the protests that happened prior to this year to increase gun control, along with a great proportion of Congress democrats who lobby for gun control, there has been little to no progress on increasing gun control measures.

This is slowly but surely changing in the public eye. Since the Parkland shooting, the calls for gun control and the resulting protests have been nearly inescapable. These same children whose lives were at stake only a month ago have risen to the challenge in the most graceful way possible.

The same frustration and loss of grief has stricken the generation after me, and they have managed to wield it to produce growth and change not just in themselves, but in the community.

Survivors from Parkland have been able to raise national awareness and national protest alike for the reformation of gun control. There is an average of 1.5 school shootings a week in 2018 including the most recent in Maryland in which 2 were injured. The gross negligence for the lives of schoolchildren continues to be prevalent, but now it’s becoming more and more apparent that we will no longer stand with targets on our backs. In light of the continuous and constant threat of school shooting, the upcoming national protest March for Our Lives will deliver this message directly to Congress this Saturday, March 24th—in Washington, DC and throughout the United States. Many Swatties will be participating in nearby marches. Transportation is available to travel to Washington.  In chorus with hundreds of thousands of protesters, I and others will be demanding more for our communities.

While my grief has a limit, my hope does not.  We are protesting for our lives.