By Codi Jones
Students gathered at the White House on Monday to protest the
government’s inability to enact effective gun control. Seventeen high school students participated in a “lie-in” after the horrific Parkland, Florida school shooting last Wednesday. The group of teens lied down on the ground for three minutes to symbolically represent the students and adults slaughtered in the most recent school massacre. Generations of young people that have grown up in a culture of fear and hopelessness will have their opinions shaped by their school environment. The young people that survive their school years will remember the friends and loved ones that we’re torn out of their lives by, increasingly common, school shootings.
While the polling data on young people and guns shows a puzzling trend of acceptance, the growing number of shootings will launch the issue back into the spotlight for as long as it is allowed to persist. Every day, more and more young people go to school with a nagging fear in the back of their mind, which is reinforced by countless safety drills designed to reduce the potential carnage of the next assailant. Despite questions on the effectiveness of active-shooter drills, kids are preparing for the worst every year. Constant drills and tragedies will create a lasting impression on gun control for current students that didn’t exist for older Americans. Previous generations had Cold War nuclear attack drills to reinforce the fear of nuclear annihilation, and millions of children today have active-shooter drills to reinforce the dangers of free-flowing guns. Through these reminders, gun control sticks with kids in school even if the news cycle moves on.
The speed at which the mainstream media moves on after a school shooting reflects how disturbingly frequent these tragedies have become in America. Thankfully, people have the tools to push the conversation back into the spotlight. Young people are much better equipped to fight against special interests and a quick news cycle than previous generations. Social media provides an ability to keep an issue salient through a unified concern and demand for action. The various platforms provide millions of youngsters with a unified voice for their grievances, and its power to produce results has been proven through movements like the recent #metoo campaign on sexual abuse. The #metoo campaign helped to amplify the conversation on sexual abuse and resulted in real resignations of guilty politicians, celebrities, and industry leaders.
The “lie-in” on Monday was organized through social media. This powerful tool at the fingertips of young Americans is proving to be an invaluable resource for the organization and progressive change. The constant reminders of the threat guns pose, combined with the conversion shaping power of social media, makes it very difficult for the NRA and gun manufacturers to sweep the consequences of loose gun laws under the rug. Soon, the survivors of an era of dangerous schools will be old enough to support representatives that are proud of their poor NRA grade. The news cycle may move on to other issues this week, but the flame will not falter for the ones at risk of losing their lives every time they step off the school bus.