The Response to the Parkland Shooting was Different. Here is why.
Author: Akayla Gardner
It can feel like tragedy and violence are consistently in the news, leaving many discouraged and heartbroken. As of lately, the country seems to be in a constant state of grievance for mass shootings making national headlines.
On Feb. 14, the Douglas Stoneman High School shooting left 17 students dead, one of the highest death tolls for school shootings in U.S. history.
There is something especially sinister about school shootings, intentionally targeting innocent children in the midst of getting an education. But after Stoneman, the nation didn’t stop at thoughts and prayers.
In something birthed out of frustration, passion, and urgency, the students of Stoneman High School ushered in a movement for gun policy reform.
But why now? What was different?
For one, the shooting took place in Parkland, Florida. A suburban city, Parkland was named the safest neighborhood in Florida in 2017 by the National Council for Home Safety and Security.
Crime, in general, was very low in the area, let alone violence and homicides. A shooting of its magnitude was a shock to the residents of the area.
Florida, a state with “stand your ground” laws, has also had its fair share of gun politics. Also a swing state, it was hard to predict whether or not the state would respond to pressure for gun reform.
The Sunshine State is now among the states with the highest record of deaths by school shooting.
The gunman’s profile is not much different than past school shooters, but Nikolas Cruz fit almost every red flag category for rigorous background checks in proposed gun control legislation.
Cruz was also 18 years old and emotionally unstable. He was enrolled in the special needs program at Stoneman until he was forced to drop out due to poor grades.
Prior to the shooting, Cruz had several run-ins with police at his house. He also posted photos of guns on his social media.
‘March for Our Lives’ advocates used Cruz’s past as an example of red flags that should’ve stopped him from legally purchasing a gun in a background check.
The gun itself was also just as important as the shooter. Cruz was armed with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, an assault rifle, and commonly referred to as a ‘weapon of war’ for its rapid speed and accuracy.
The student activists of the movement may not have known what they were getting themselves into, but once they did they organized an impressive campaign.
The day of the shooting and the day after there was intense national media coverage of the shooting. Following the timely coverage of shooting, a sequence of key elements came into play.
Three days after the shooting, Emma Gonzalez’s speech at a Florida rally went viral of her speaking out against and the government and the National Rifle Association, calling for action on legislation.
Four days after the shooting, Cameron Kasky and a group of students organized the #NeverAgain campaign, to promote stricter gun policies and end school shootings. They also announced a march in Washington, D.C.
Eight days later, CNN organized a town hall that was featured on live television with Congress representatives, law enforcement, and an NRA representative.
The students were also well-prepared and well-versed in gun control policy every time they appeared in an interview or gave a speech.
Although Gonzalez and David Hogg are often seen as faces of the movement, there were no centralized leaders. Many students were vocal both inside and outside of Parkland.
The Generation Zers made use of social media and gained the financial and emotional support of many celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, George Clooney, and Steven Spielberg for their ‘March For Our Lives’ protest.
All their efforts did result in change. Florida proposed stricter gun laws and the U.S. Department of Justice banned bump stocks, a gun extension that allows a semi-automatic rifle to fire like a machine gun. Many business and corporations took a stance on gun policy in support of the campaign including Dick’s and L.L. Bean. Congress never came to a consensus on new gun control legislation.
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