After the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, people around the country anticipated the same response: thoughts and prayers, calls for gun legislation and political inaction. This time, though, the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School decided that they would be “The last mass shooting.” Their unprecedented rallying, lobbying and organizing for the “March For Our Lives” protest inspired predominately high school-age students across the United States to start their own protests. Concerned college students must protest in solidarity of their younger counterparts.
Some school districts, including the Needville Independent School District in Needville, Texas, threatened to punish students for participating in walkouts and other demonstrations. It is wrong to prevent students from speaking on gun violence in schools as the issue directly involves those who want to express their opinions about it. Students both in college and high school should be free to speak on the issue. College students have a special opportunity to actively support their high school counterparts when they may be wrongfully restricted because they do not have the same privilege, freedom and ability to engage in activism as college students.
College students who demand similar change must express these concerns to their representatives in the form of protest alongside their high school companions. David Hogg — one of the most prominent high school student activists to arise from the tragedy — explained, “We need to stand up, go out and vote, talk to our legislators and get educated. Be persistent. Because these interest groups and politicians will not listen if we don’t speak up.” If constituents can not express their concerns, there is no way for lawmakers to consider their needs in legislation.
The ability of college students to vote should not be understated, either. Ultimately, high school students can not use their power to vote representatives into office that will address their needs. The responsibility to create legislative change falls in part on college students who have this power.
From the Greensboro sit-ins, to the Vietnam War protests, to the Black Lives Matter movement, the college student involvement changed the status quo of American policy. The protests of the Vietnam War at the 1968 Democratic National Convention are credited with helping bring an end to the war, all because of college student engagement. Not only do student protests work, the Never Again movement is another opportunity to inspire a new generation of activists.
Kosinski is a journalism freshman from San Rafael, California. Follow him on Twitter @willkosinski.