Photo courtesy of CNN.com
March 7, 2018
On Wednesday, February 14, Nikolas Cruz, a former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student, open fired on the school, killing 17 adults and children. The incident sparked anger and grief across the country, and students are now stepping up. From walkouts to hand paintings, students throughout the U.S. are finding new ways to get their message across that gun violence must be stopped.
Atholton’s own Be The Change club is working with students throughout the school to prevent gun violence in Howard County and the rest of the nation. On Wednesday, February 21, Be The Change held a meeting to discuss the recent tragedy and how students can make a difference.
“It’s hard to put into words how enraging and saddening it was to see fellow high school students be ripped apart by a spray of bullets from such a vengeful person,” said freshman member of Be The Change, Trevor Silbert, about the Parkland, Florida shooting.
The club, which formed during the beginning of this school year, began their February club meeting by calling the Maryland governor, Larry Hogan. Two of the Be The Change club presidents, Chloe Shader and Chera Yoon, noted that, “[Hogan] got an A rating from the NRA [in 2014]. So, it’s important that we tell him that we really cared about gun control and keeping our communities in schools safe.”
The National Rifle Association awards letter grades to politicians based on their voting records on gun control measures. At the time of his candidacy, Hogan had received an A rating but would not release the answers that led to his grade which began a mountain of controversy. Thus, Be The Change members wanted to ensure that their voices were being heard by representatives and government official, such as Governor Hogan, who are responsible for passing legislative measures.
In addition to the phone calls, Be The Change members also signed a petition to pass Senate Bill 1036. The bill would prohibit accused domestic violence abusers from purchasing a gun, which keeps the victim and their family members safe from gun violence, Shader said. Afterwards, the club discussed different organizations, such as Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Sandy Hook Promise, that are gathering in Howard County to advocate for gun violence prevention. On March 12 at the Central Library, all Howard County residents, not just mothers, can join Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America to learn about ways to take action.
Later this month, Be the Change plans to create signs for and attend the March for Lives in Washington D.C. on March 24. The club leaders urge anyone who wants to fight for more comprehensive gun reform to attend the march later this month.
Student Leadership Cadre (SLC) also created a campaign at Atholton to prevent gun violence. SLC recently spread the message that just one hello can brighten someone’s day through a project called Start With Hello, created by the parents of the Sandy Hook shooting victims. Through this project, members of SLC hope to promote inclusivity throughout the school so that no one feels isolated or feels the need to turn to gun violence.
“The whole entire idea of the project is that one hello can change someone’s day so no one feels isolated,” said Sam Clearfield, co-president of SLC and leader of this project.
The Start With Hello project included lunchtime activities, such as a banner with ice breaker questions in hopes to start conversations between students and create a more inclusive environment.
Living just over 1,000 miles away from Atholton, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida are enraged by the lack of legislative action being taken by their representatives and their passion is fueling a movement. Marjory Stoneman Douglas students are organizing multiple walkouts and marches both locally and nationwide, spearheaded a CNN town hall on February 22, and have met with high-ranking government officials.
On February 21, multiple students, staff, and parents from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School met with President Trump to discuss future plans and legislation to prevent gun violence. President Trump has suggested arming teachers and giving those who chose to be armed a bonus, according to news reports from CNN. However, this suggestion has been met with large opposition from Democrat and Republican legislators alike, as well as many educators.
Like most social movements, there are also people on the opposite end of the spectrum: those who are against gun regulations, fearing that law-abiding gun owners will be punished. Members of the NRA are contacting their legislators, telling them that they, “as a law-abiding gun owner[s], do not accept the blame for the criminal acts of a deranged individual,”according to the NRA website. Instead of supporting stricter gun control laws, the NRA urges government officials to reexamine the mental health system and support arming trained security personnel.
Nonetheless, gun control continues to be favored by most Americans despite the NRA’s efforts to thwart these changes. According to a New York Times article, 63% of people support a ban on high-capacity magazines, 71% support restricting the legal age to purchase a gun to those 21 years or older, and 87% believe that felons and others with mental health problems should not be able to purchase guns.
The actions taken across the nation by Parkland students and their communities after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting proves the determination and resilience of these young activists whether they be from Stoneman Douglas or Atholton High School. As Yoon said, “As much as it’s easy to feel helpless, feel like the world is just not going to get better or never learn its lesson–when the adults in positions of power are consistently ignoring cries of concern, it comes back to us to speak up.”