Vassar: Parkland shooting activists could set trend for future activists

Ethan Vassar

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and  does not represent a stance taken by the Collegian or its editorial board.  

The new activist group that emerged in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida had a name just four days after the tragedy: Never Again.

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The attack that killed 3 staff members and 14 students, and left 14 injured at Marjory Stonewall High School is the first to have students involved highly in the gun control discussion. The shooting has ushered in an unprecedented movement for gun control, inspiring other high school students around the nation to engage in walk outs, protests, and actively engage in finding a solution. This response has given the American youth something they’ve never collectively had: a voice.

And with that voice comes a massive audience.

At the forefront of this call for change are three of the survivors: Emma Gonzalez, Cameron Kasky, and Jaclyn Corin. The three recently appeared on the Ellen show, garnering over 1 million views on each clip they were featured in on the Ellen Show YouTube channel.

“You’re all amazing,” DeGeneres remarked to the group, praising their efforts, action, and passion for change in Washington.

Many would agree with DeGeneres’ praise. Not only does it take a special person to find a silver lining in such a violent act, but the survivors and activists that banded together after the Parkland shooting have done more for the conversation of gun control in a few weeks that others have done in years. Even in Fort Collins, students from Poudre Valley school district walked out of their classes to show their support following the Parkland shooting victims. 

Students from the Poudre School District hold signs they made in protest. The protest was held by students, parents, and community members to pay respects to the children killed in the Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting in Parkland, Florida, and to request better gun safety laws and regulations. (Colin Shepherd | Collegian)

The students were smart to organize so quickly, just four days after the shooting the group had a name and a cohesive goal: stricter background checks for gun buyers and a plan for a nationwide protest.

“Had they waited even a week to start advocating for change, the reporters would have gone home,” writes New Yorker news writer Emily Witt. The timeliness of their protest was spot on. 

Americans have a nasty habit of moving on from the news of any kind of tragedy quickly. The Ellen YouTube channel is even guilty of this, the interviews with the three survivors are followed by a video titled “Heidi Klum Doesn’t Feel Too Old To Model.”

Much of this habit is learned, partly because life is so saturated with events like these. This was the seventh school shooting this year alone.

“It’s not like a new, fresh horrible thing that’s happening, it’s been preëxisting even before we entered the world,” says Corin.

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An old journalism saying, “Dog bites a man is not news. Man bites a dog is news,”, comes to mind.

Today, mass shootings appear to be as mundane as a dog bite, it takes something really extraordinary to collect more than thoughts and prayers.But the survivors seem like they’re aiming to change that.

They organized quick before reporters left. They made shirts to fund and spread their cause, they’re using social media to spread their names, faces, and message. They’ve turned grief into action. Most importantly, they’ve given the American youth a voice.

Young people now see not only their views represented, but someone who is the same age as them with the same views getting the same amount of attention as an adult. A week after the shooting, Kasky made an appearance on CNN and confronted senator Marco Rubio face to face, asking him about his relationship with the NRA.

This attention may be nothing new for the student leaders, many were dedicated members of Douglass High’s drama club. Kasky was a theatre kid, so there is no doubt that every aspect of his questioning of Florida Senator Rubio was calculated.

Not only are these kids amazing, as Ellen said, but brave as well. Much of their innocence was taken by the gunman, Nikolas Cruz, and they’re giving away the rest to away the media. Everything they is under a microscope. Corin admits having not even been “a little bit” active in politics before the shooting. Your average American would probably trust a seasoned policymaker or government official over a girl who’s biggest worry was missing out on seeing 21 Savage up until last month.

How these teens handle their fame could set a precedent for how we react to tragedies in the future. They got their audience, and American is watching. 

Ethan Vassar can be reached at letters@collegian.com or online @ethan_vassar.