Hundreds of thousands, many of them young people, marched down Pennsylvania Avenue demanding gun control at the March For Our Lives protest.
And in record numbers, teens put their pain to action by organizing massive demonstrations in public places and on social media.
Teens say many adults didn’t take their powerful rallying cry seriously following the mass school shooting in Parkland. Several told Cosmopolitan that they want their parents and the critics of teenage gun control activism to know they are taking an active role in changing history because…
1. “Youth activism isn’t exploitation…”
Many adults are telling teens to first grow up, get a little life experience and “form your own ideas,” instead of parroting what educators “have fed you.”
Jazmine Alcon, 18, of West Deptford, New Jersey said:
[…] It’s always been an unspoken rule growing up that you just have to wait for your turn. You have to wait till you’re a certain age or have a certain career to do all these things. But now we’re breaking all the rules to do what we want.
2. “It could’ve been any of us…”
Emerson Ross, 18, of Wichita, Kansas said:
“[…] A lot of adults are either set in their ways or just blowing off the voices of children.
It’s easier for youth to understand because we are the kids that are going to school every day. We are the kids who have a sense for what it’s like to be a victim of a shooting.”
3. “We’re not trying to deny your Second Amendment but something needs to change…”
A free speech activist group photoshopped Parkland shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez ripping the U.S. Constitution in two and posted it on Twitter.
At left is @tyler_mitchell’s photo of @Emma4Change for the cover of @TeenVogue. At right is what so-called “Gun Rights Activists” have photoshopped it into. #MarchForOurLives pic.twitter.com/jW6tTOv2Db
— Phillip Picardi (@pfpicardi) March 25, 2018
Many protesters say changing the Constitution is not the main purpose, and that they want tighter gun control legislation to minimize the risk of mass killings in society.
Kenidra Woods, 17, of St. Louis, Missouri said:
“The thing is, how are we gonna keep guns around if we don’t have control of this thing? It can get out of control. That’s what we’re asking for — it’s not like we’re trying to deny your Second Amendment.
I feel like that’s what adults got twisted. They think we’re little kids and we don’t know what we’re talking about.”
4. “We’re scared…”
Amy Rothman, 16, of Baltimore, Maryland said teens live a fear-driven life in school:
“I personally go to a private school, but I went to a public school till sophomore year. Talking to my public school friends, they flinch at every alarm that goes off, every sound… they’re scared. I wish adults really understood that they had the chance to go to school. They had the chance to graduate.
We care because a lot of students feel like they might not even get that chance.”
5. “We’re not too emotional for change…”
Bill O’Reilly recently asked on Twitter, “Should the media be promoting opinions by teenagers who are in an emotional state and facing extreme peer pressure in some cases?”
The big question is: should the media be promoting opinions by teenagers who are in an emotional state and facing extreme peer pressure in some cases?
— Bill O’Reilly (@BillOReilly) February 20, 2018
Jazmine Alcon described her emotionalism as compassion for others. She said:
“Many adults think it’s a bad thing that a lot of our work, activism, and opinions in general are driven by our emotions. They dismiss us as emotional. But I think when it comes to policy changing and making laws, a part of it should be driven by emotion.
We should be caring about the people we’re talking about. I think that emotion should be at the heart of any type of work that has to do with human beings, including gun control. We need to think about people and their stories and their struggles, because if not what are we even doing it for?”
6. “Adults have failed us…”
Some students said adults are not taking action against gun violence because “guns are political.” But for them, the movement is about getting guns out of the hands of their peers and keeping schools safe.
Anika Shah, 17, of Southlake, Texas said:
“A lot of us feel like this is the appropriate time and is absolutely necessary, because it’s evident our adults have been failing us all this time in terms of laws and policies.”
7. “We’re not stuck in the past…”
Students also said they’re not paralyzed by their grief but they are inspired to prevent incidents like Parkland in the future. Perhaps it’s youth “idealism” to some adults, but for these teens, they feel this movement could be a turning point for gun violence in America.
Noorie Dhingra, 14, of Pottstown, Pennsylvania said:
“I feel like a lot of adults think that we’re tryna stay in the past, and not move forward, but honestly, we’re just working to respect the lives lost. An activist does something. Anything. All of us are just teenagers fed up with this situation.
Whether it’s using social media or meeting with local government representatives, we’re making change.”
8. “Forget politics. We’re just trying to make communities more safe…”
Some in Generation Z believe a bipartisan bill limiting military grade assault rifles could benefit the country and make it safer.
The most compelling sign from the #MarchForOurLives protests last weekend.
— Jeffrey Levin (@jilevin) March 27, 2018
Taylor Bumgarner, at Gaston Early College High School, wrote on her local news site Gaston Gazette:
“The people of the United States have been calling for the ban of high-powered assault weapons and stricter background checks on gun to no avail.
As someone who has been around guns my entire life and have shot them since I could hold one, I know their destructive power.
It is one thing for someone to own a pellet gun or 22 mm, it is something entirely different to own and use a military grade assault rifle made exclusively to do the most amount of damage within the least amount of time.”
Teens who have launched an anti-gun movement are being compared to baby-boomer protesters — who changed the course of history with regard to U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Barack and Michelle Obama recently credited students for “awakening the conscience of the nation,” much like their grandparents, reports the Huffington Post.