Following the tragic school shooting that claimed 17 lives at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. on Feb. 14, students from the school have gained international attention. The students have rallied together in an effort to end gun violence. Exhibiting certainty and tenacity, students are steadfast in their intent to hold legislators responsible for perceived inaction in regards to advocating for sensible gun control. As a result, Parkland students organized March For Our Lives, which took place on March 24. The march demanded that “their lives and safety become a priority,” as stated on the March For Our Lives’ website. Although students have faced opposition, particularly from the National Rifle Association leadership and others who have questioned the validity of the position of the students, I believe that students in high school and college should invariably exercise their right to peaceably assemble as afforded by the First Amendment. Moreover, students should be applauded for insisting that guns be part of the narrative, a component many in power refuse to acknowledge when discussing the future of school safety.
Unlike the nationwide March 14 school walkouts, which resulted in disciplinary action taken against some students, students’ right to peacefully protest on March 24 cannot be disputed. According to the March For Our Lives website, with over 800 planned “sister marches” worldwide, students are determined to see a comprehensive piece of legislation brought before Congress to “immediately” address gun issues in the country. The website stated, “No special interest group, no political agenda is more critical than timely passage of legislation to effectively address the gun violence issues that are rampant in our country.” While some people may not agree with the political position of the students, they lack justification in saying that they should not be allowed to voice that perspective. By doing so, they not only oppose the students’ constitutional right to peaceably assemble, but also their freedom of speech. Likewise, the American Civil Liberties Union asserts, “Outside of school, students enjoy essentially the same rights to protest and speak out as anyone else.” More so, protesting on the weekend and off school property is to the advantage of students seeking to avoid repercussions from school administrators or their school district.
I am proud of every student making the bold decision to stand behind his or her beliefs. It takes tremendous courage to not be silenced by those who would prefer to dismiss the issue of gun violence. Likewise, it is more important than ever to combat those who try to divert the conversation away from the need for sensible gun control. It takes great courage to voice an opinion unpopular with the majority that is currently leading our country. Therefore, students deserve the respect and support of people of all ages since the shootings that occurred in Parkland, Columbine, Newtown, or more recently at Great Mills High School in Maryland, can occur anywhere and will continue to occur if people accept inaction. Furthermore, those who acknowledge the likelihood that these shootings will not be the last cannot expect any change or reform if they sit by complacently or wait for others to take action. It is for that reason that I joined the march in Washington D.C. on March 24, along with 32 Fairfield University students, and why we should continue to participate in and support future peaceful protests in our country. Only then can we say that we made an effort to raise our voices so that those with the power to enact policy changes can truly serve the people.