On Wednesday, exactly one month after 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz opened fire at his former high school in Parkland, Florida, students across the nation took part in National Walkout Day in protest of gun violence – capping off a busy first month of the student-led #NeverAgain movement.
More than 185,000 students from more than 2,500 schools across the country were expected to participate, with students walking out of their classrooms at 10 a.m. local time for 17 minutes, one minute for each of the 17 people killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. In some cities, like New York, the demonstrations expanded beyond school property, spilling out onto the streets and into parks. In Washington, D.C., students carrying signs gathered en masse outside the White House and on Capitol Hill.
Sites of previous school shootings, including Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, also took part.
Internationally, students from Israel to Tanzania also walked out of their classrooms Wednesday to show solidarity for the American student movement.
The students' demands centered on four main policies, as laid out on the Women's March Youth Empower website (the group's youth branch, EMPOWER, organized the nationwide protest): banning assault weapons, expanding background checks for all gun sales, passing a gun violence restraining order law and bringing an end to militarizing law enforcement.
Stoneman Douglas students are partnering with nonprofit organization Everytown for Gun Safety to organize an even larger "March for Our Lives" march on Washington on March 24th. (They also, memorably, delivered impassioned speeches to lawmakers in Tallahassee, Florida, just one week after several of their classmates were gunned down).
By contrast, in the four weeks since the February 14th massacre, adults have been tepid about enacting policy changes surrounding gun control to promote school safety, even as the Parkland shooting has now been recognized as one of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history. As students – many of whom are still too young to vote – have taken action, their grown-up counterparts have allowed partisan politics to stymie progress.
Adults haven't been entirely useless – both Walmart and Dick's Sporting Goods, two of the nation's leading gun sellers, announced on February 28th that they would be taking steps to limit their sales of firearms. Walmart said it would no longer sell guns to anyone under 21 years of age, and would remove any items resembling assault rifles – including toys and air guns – from its shelves.
That same day, Dick's announced that it would stop all sales of assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines in its stores, and would also require buyers to be at least 21 years of age.
But when it comes to politicians, support has been lacking, and proposed legislation has been lackluster. On March 9th, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed Senate Bill 7026 into law, marking the first gun control legislation since the February 14th massacre. The law, known as the Marjory Stonemason Douglas High School Public Safety Act, raises the minimum age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21, but still allows some teachers to be armed.
And most recently, President Trump himself flip-flopped on his surprising February 28th promise to instate stricter gun control laws, aligning instead with the NRA in a proposal revealed Sunday and in a series of tweets Monday.
Very strong improvement and strengthening of background checks will be fully backed by White House. Legislation moving forward. Bump Stocks will soon be out. Highly trained expert teachers will be allowed to conceal carry, subject to State Law. Armed guards OK, deterrent!.......— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 12, 2018
....On 18 to 21 Age Limits, watching court cases and rulings before acting. States are making this decision. Things are moving rapidly on this, but not much political support (to put it mildly).— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 12, 2018
If schools are mandated to be gun free zones, violence and danger are given an open invitation to enter. Almost all school shootings are in gun free zones. Cowards will only go where there is no deterrent!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 12, 2018
Trump's new proposal includes arming teachers and keeping the gun purchase age limit at 18.