Parkland one year later: We’re still #MSDStrong

Young people led the March for Our Lives rally last spring. They haven’t given up, and neither should we.

In one sense, one year after 17 people died in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, nothing has changed. Then again, so much has changed.

The students who survived the shooting became national leaders as they worked through their heartfelt pain and anger. They spoke with eloquence, honesty, and facts. They weren’t afraid to call out the National Rifle Association and lawmakers who refused to take action on gun violence, often speaking through tears in videos that quickly went viral.

As student David Hogg, who was then managing editor of the student TV station at Stoneman Douglas and who will head to Harvard in the fall, reminded everyone: These kids knew what they were talking about when it came to facts about guns and violence. MSD students in debate classes and on the debate team had researched and argued about gun control the previous fall, gathering information that served them perfectly in their media interviews and talks with legislators.

Those students built a movement — one that went beyond gun violence. They spent the summer criss-crossing the country, registering young people to vote. They went from March For Our Lives to the Vote For Our Lives movement.

Attendance surged at meetings of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a group that saw an additional 500,000 people sign up, donate, and volunteer. Those same volunteers in their recognizable red shirts flooded state legislative sessions all year, making sure lawmakers felt pressure to enact common-sense gun safety laws. They had successes and disappointments, but last year eight states passed “red-flag” laws, which allow police to confiscate guns from people deemed to be a threat to themselves or others. Other states raised the age of allowable gun purchases, and several retailers stopped selling assault-style weapons.

Moms Demand also backed candidates running on a gun safety platform — an unheard-of position in days when the NRA seemingly had unstoppable influence. Many of those candidates won, both in primaries and in the midterm elections in November 2018. Now those elected officials are aiming for common-sense gun safety laws at the state and national level.

There has been no national gun safety legislation in decades. Yet now that Democrats are in the majority in the House, the House Judiciary Committee passed a measure that would require background checks for all gun sales and most gun transfers within the U.S. While it likely won’t even be voted on in the Republican-led Senate, much less be signed by Donald Trump, it forces the gun safety conversation out into the open.

Support for common-sense gun laws surged after the Parkland shooting. While that initial support has somewhat subsided, backing for universal background checks is still supported by 92 percent of Americans. Given that the NRA has lost much of its influence, I wouldn’t like to be a GOP lawmaker trying to explain to a constituent a vote against universal background checks.

In the year since the Parkland shooting, there have been nearly 350 mass shootings in the United States, or an average of about one a day. In the six-plus years since 20 children and six adults died in a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, there have been nearly 2,000 mass shootings.

And lest we forget, in remembering the Marjory Stone Douglas High School victims, Valentine’s Day marks another anniversary of a school mass shooting:

When will it stop?

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