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Progressive Voice: Arlington Students Won’t Back Down on Gun Control

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or

By Brook Schaeffler, Emma Johnston and Cynthia Dillon

Today, the gun control movement is larger than ever because angry teenagers across the nation — students like us — are demanding change.

This growing movement was sparked by the tragedy that occurred on February 14 at Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School in Parkland, Fla. The 17 lives that were mercilessly taken there brought to light the epidemic of firearm violence caused by easy access to guns and inadequate enforcement of gun control laws.

As students, recent events leave us feeling vulnerable to the consequences of lenient gun control laws. We feel it is our duty to take a stand against what we believe to be an unsafe situation. To make our voices heard, we participated in a Teens for Gun Control Reform protest outside the White House on February 19 and afterward found ourselves on the front page of The New York Times.

We participated in student-organized walkouts from school on February 21 and March 14. We are using social media to contact like-minded students in Arlington, Parkland and across the nation to organize, develop messages, share support and offer housing for students traveling to Washington, D.C., to work for change.

We also will participate in the March for Our Lives on March 24 to focus attention on school safety and show those who oppose stricter gun control laws that we, among many other students nationwide, are ready to take a firm stand for overdue change.

Kids across the country should be able to attend school without being in constant fear for their lives. Yet, as noted in the Washington Post, the FBI reports that education settings such as K – 12 schools and college campuses are the second most common location for active shooters. Despite each of the horrific school shootings in the past and the most recent tragedy in Florida, little effort has been made to put an end to the gun violence.

Indeed, compared to other countries, obtaining a gun of any sort in the United States is particularly easy. Countries such as Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom have imposed much stricter laws on guns than in the United States and these restrictions have led to fewer guns in the hands of civilians and fewer mass shootings in these countries.

School is supposed to be a safe place, yet today getting an education is one of the many things put at risk by our nation’s pervasive and irresponsible gun culture. Although we are aware that complete reform will not happen overnight, we hope that students like us are willing to continue taking action for as long as necessary.

We encourage the President, Congress, the Governor and General Assembly to take time to understand the fears students face and then do something meaningful about it. They need to enact laws that protect people, not guns.

Unable to feel safe in our own schools, this issue is not one we will back down from or abandon. We believe there is no justifiable reason for any civilian to own an AR-15, or any other military weapon made solely for the purpose of killing other human beings.

It is our goal to show adults that we are not to be underestimated. We refuse to let this catastrophe be swept under the rug. Our desire is for safer schools for ourselves and the generations to follow.

We struggle to understand why there have been no meaningful changes in the ineffective gun control laws after the sheer amount of deaths in the past decades due to firearms. As long as schools that were once considered to be safe are now threatened across the country, we will fight for a change.

As long as our government continues to allow the buying and selling of military-grade weapons by civilians, we will fight for a change. As long as the background check system is insufficient, we will fight for a change. We will persist in standing up for what we believe in and we will not back down. We speak for the youth of America when we say we have had enough.

Cynthia Dillon is a sophomore in the H -B Woodlawn Secondary Program in Arlington, VA. Emma Johnson and Brook Schaeffler are sophomores at Yorktown High School in Arlington, VA.

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