On March 14, the one month anniversary of the Parkland shooting, Tufts students and students around the country will walk out of their classes in a showing of solidarity and a call for action. We walk out to protest all forms of gun violence: from police brutality, to mass shootings, to systemic forms of gun violence that disproportionately affect black and brown communities. We are calling on our leaders to change legislation accordingly. At Tufts, those participating will gather on the Residential Quad at 10:00 a.m. to hear fellow students’ stories on gun violence. The event will last 17 minutes, to honor the 17 lives lost in Parkland.
Our rally is a part of a larger national movement, #Enough, which is organized by high schoolers from around the nation with support from the Women’s March. This movement, which has taken off alongside Parkland’s student activism, has significantly more weight than most previous pushes for legislation after gun violence. They are calling for prevention on all fronts, to not only reduce mass shootings, but also reduce police violence, destabilizing foreign policy and systemic violence in black and brown communities. (Our rally adds to these stated demands, making sure that gun suicides are a part of the conversation.) Amazingly, instead of fading from the media circuit, the students are continuing to gain momentum by planning the March for Our Lives event in Washington on March 24, and another walkout for April 20, which marks the 19th year since the shooting at Columbine.
This movement is important as violence and the frequency of shootings increase exponentially, while gun laws only grow more relaxed. Each day, an average of 96 Americans are killed by guns. In 2017, 15,580 people were killed by guns, and another 31,178 were injured. About two-thirds of these deaths were suicides. Last year saw 346 mass shootings, each of which had a rippling effect on the survivors, their communities and all communities that have witnessed mass shootings.
We stand up with the students and survivors from Parkland, Sandy Hook, Columbine and all other victims of gun violence when we say enough is enough. Students and teachers have a right to learn without fearing a shooting. We all have a right to live without being afraid of gun violence. This movement is pushing for legislation to allow that to happen.
We demand the following:
We demand that Congress expand background checks to all gun sales. Currently, some private sellers can legally sell firearms without performing a background check, giving access to those who should not be allowed to purchase guns. Congress must act to close this loophole.
We demand that Congress act to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines, which are frequently used in mass shootings.
We demand that Congress promote safe storage of guns to reduce suicides and accidental deaths by firearms.
We demand that Congress pass a gun violence restraining order law, which would allow courts to temporarily block dangerous individuals from purchasing and possessing guns. This is an area where our state government can act, too; Massachusetts has no such law on the books, but the Democratic supermajority in the state legislature could easily make it a reality.
We demand that all elected officials and candidates decline campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association (NRA), a lobbying group that represents the firearm industry. The NRA has repeatedly killed any bill that could hurt gun sales, showing that they are more concerned about their own profits than people’s lives.
Currently, the Center for Disease Control is legally forbidden from using government money to research gun violence as a public health issue. We demand that this law, called the Dickey Amendment, be overturned, and that the government fund research on gun violence.
Given that 987 people were shot and killed by police last year, and that many black and brown communities justifiably distrust the police, we demand that Congress act to end the militarization of police departments and instead move towards disarming the police. Countries like England and Wales have unarmed police officers, leading to much lower rates of police shootings. We should strive for a similar system in the US.
Crucially, we demand that all current and future gun legislation be implemented equally and fairly among all races and classes. The infamous murder of Philando Castile, a law-abiding, black gun owner killed for legally possessing a weapon, is evidence that enforcement of gun laws is racialized and disproportionately affects marginalized communities.
What we are asking for is not radical. These are common sense proposals that will save lives and allow us to live without fear.
We have seen too many acts of gun violence to stay silent. We cannot stand idly by and wait for this episode to fade from memory. Students from Parkland and from all over the nation are making sure that this time, we won’t forget. Despite those trying to divide us, most agree that gun laws should be stronger; 97 percent of this country supports stricter background checks. Expressing this unity is crucial as we push for sensible legislation to prevent the massive amount of gun violence our country faces daily.
Come show your support and walk out on March 14. Together, we can make a change.