‘Testing, testing, testing.” A low whine fills the room. Mic checks done, we head down to nervously greet the important people. Celine Woznica from Moms Demand Action, Sharon Fairley who is running for Attorney General, Anthony Clark who is running for the 7th Congressional District, Angela Burges from NAMI, 7th District state Rep. Chris Welch, and Aaron Goldstein running for Attorney General.
We lead them to the stage, let them sit where they please. Although the start of the event has been delayed, once we begin, it flows smoothly. No panelist is shy, and each is fierce in their support of gun control. We listen to them speak for over an hour, soaking in their encouragement to not fail the next generation the way they feel they have failed us.
After Parkland, we both shrugged off the death of another 17 students. It happened. Again. Just another shooting. What more was there to say? This is what we have grown up with: violence in our schools. Since Columbine, there have been 208 school shootings, 25 of which have resulted in deaths. The majority of high school students were born in and after 2000 — after Columbine in 1999. We are a generation that has grown up with lockdown drills, armed guards, and metal detectors. We are more knowledgeable on what to do in the instance of an active shooter than on paying taxes. We can name more school shooters off the top of our heads than we can name capitals of states.
Protesting, specifically walking out, is important. We are showing our solidarity and support for gun control. We are approaching, or have already reached, voting age, and will be the ones likely deciding any future changes in the political climate. It is important, however, to remember to take the next step: to make sure we, as students, are informed on the issues. The most important step is the first step out the door, but you cannot stop there. The walkouts show solidarity, that we are the voices of those affected by gun violence, and that we will not stop protesting. However, legislators still need to change and policies need to be passed; how will these things happen if students are not making their voices heard by their representatives?
This is where forums and town halls come into play. These events give voters a chance to listen to what their potential government officials plan to do and give the officials a chance to listen to what their voters want and need. While walkouts and other protests are incredibly important, it is sometimes a bit easier to miss 30 minutes of class for an invigorating speech than go to an hour-long panel in a hot auditorium. Change is not easy, though. It takes walking out of school over and over and over again. It takes showing up to an hour-long panel in a hot auditorium. It takes grit and it takes effort. It takes showing up.
“So,” ask parents and students alike, “what can I do?”
We have this to ask of adults: Spread the word, support your children, and vote. This is a movement targeting the rampant gun violence prevalent throughout the United States. The NRA has spread and set roots so deep into the GOP and its base that make it next to impossible to get any real changes to the policies. Many of us teenagers will not be able to vote this November, so keep that in mind when you cast votes that will ultimately affect us.
As for our peers and future generations, the same applies. Spread the word, show up to walkouts and town halls, and talk to your parents about how they plan to vote. Your voice is important, regardless of what anyone says. Speak for what you believe in and get involved. If you wait for an invitation to the movement, you will be waiting a long time. Find a megaphone, stand on a chair, and get loud.
These are our lives on the line. We are the people who are being killed, over and over again. The right to have a hobby, the right to enjoy money and power should not be taking precedence over an innocent child’s right to live. Nobody deserves to watch their friends gunned down in front of them or to fear for their own lives. Not in the street, not in the home, and certainly not in school, a place where we should feel safe and thrive.
We will not stop walking out, we will not stop speaking to our representatives, not until we see that our voices are being heard, not until we see a change in the rate at which our classmates are being murdered.
Enough is enough!
Ev Berger-Wolf and Casey Ford are students at OPRF High School and principal organizers of the town hall on gun violence held on March 14, following the student walkout.