Thank you for having me.
I am here today to speak on the behalf of students and teachers nationwide, and most especially, on the behalf of those who can no longer speak for themselves.
In 1999, when 13 students were shot and killed in Columbine, we said enough.
In 2007, when 56 students were shot and 32 of them killed at Virginia Tech, we said enough.
In 2012, when 20 1st graders and 6 of their teachers were murdered in class at Sandy Hook, we said enough.
In 2015, when 19 students were shot and 10 killed in Roseburg, we said enough.
In 2018, when 31 students were shot and 17 murdered just three hours from where we stand now, we came together to declare enough talk! More actions.
As a movement, we students stand against those who tell us not to politicize the shootings, that we should do nothing more than remember the lives lost.
If legislative inaction and doing nothing more than remembering victims is the correct response to preventable tragedies, then why, after 3000 people were killed by plane hijackers on 9/11, did we rapidly implement strict plane safety and the Patriot Act? To all the people who do not want to politicize this shooting, where were you after 9/11? Where were you saying that we shouldn’t politicize the hijacking, that we should just remember the lives lost? Where were you saying that if someone wanted to hijack a plane, that no plane restrictions would stop them? Where were you?
Because after enforcing strict plane safety regulations, we have NOT had another 9/11; that’s because plane safety works—just like gun safety works. And that doesn’t mean that all crime will be eliminated, but it does mean that gun violence will drop. When 35 people were shot and killed at Port Arthur, Australia, it was their 14th mass shooting in 18 years, and they responded by enacting strict gun laws; 22 years later, and they have not had a SINGLE mass shooting since. Gun Laws work. Banning semi-automatic rifles works. Making high capacity magazines illegal works. Limiting the number of guns someone can buy works. Gun Laws work!
And this is not to say that we don’t think mental health is a factor, but to any politicians bought out by the NRA who try to say that mass shootings are not a guns issue, you are dead wrong.
Every developed country has people who are mentally ill, but only the U.S.—the country with the loosest gun laws in the developed world—has just under one mass shooting per day. America is a patient with cancer, and we have doctors saying that instead of removing the tumor, we should only focus on adjusting the patient’s lifestyle. We are here to say that we should focus on the patient’s lifestyle, but not until you remove that tumor.
Yet to us, it seems like some politicians just want to put a band aid over this tumor; our governor Rick Scott just raised the minimum age to buy an assault rifle from 18 to 21 and made bump stocks illegal. And while we accept any change for the better, bump stocks have never been used in a school shooting, and the vast majority of mass shooters are from ages 20-49, above 21 anyway, so this cannot be the only change that politicians use to try to silence us—to try and make us forget. We cannot let them off the hook just for doing the bare minimum, giving us 3 years. We are not in this movement only to add 3 years to our lives, we are in this movement to ensure the opportunity to live out our lives.
We students and teachers alike strongly oppose attempts to arm teachers. Many of the teachers I asked said they would rather quit than carry a gun, and to quote one coach, he said “I don’t even remember where I put my glasses this morning, and you wanna trust me with a gun?” Arming teachers would put students in more serious danger than they already are, and completely circumvents the real issue of a needed change in gun laws. It is nothing more than a maneuver by gun manufacturers to sell more guns, and while the gun lobby may claim to want to keep schools safe by turning them into armed fortresses, what about movie theaters, night clubs, concerts? You cannot make this world out of Kevlar.
But most importantly, we have to ensure that this movement is substantiated by actions, and not just words. As high schools across the nation, we are not as connected as a well-organized interest group like the NRA, so we need all the help we can get. That’s why I ask for you, the League of Women Voters, to play as active as a role as you can in this motion. Your expertise, organization, and platform can greatly advance the cause, whether it’s through registering voters, mobilizing them, or raising awareness. The state of California has 100,000 16 and 17 year olds registered to vote, all of who intend to make their voices heard, and I believe that that is an example to be followed. I have talked to some student activists attending Stoneman Douglas about the idea of establishing a Never Again voting day in Florida’s early voting period, where we encourage and help mobilize students and adults calling for sensible gun laws to go out and vote. We feel that this will greatly increase voter turnout, and motivate students who wouldn’t otherwise go out and vote because their friends are. I alone don’t have the platform to initiate that, but all of us together do. So if you like that idea, please use it, or think of other ways to substantiate the movement and produce veritable change.
So finally, the time is now to act as a people to make sure that the next 17 families don’t have to lose their sons and daughters. The time is now to act as a people to demand these common sense gun laws, because this is not an issue of red vs blue, democrat vs republican, or any other labels we create to divide ourselves. This is about humanity. This is about saving lives—democratic and republican lives, because both parties are losing loved ones, and as the shooter didn’t discriminate—neither should we.
Because all of us together will be the ones to make sure
that the victims memoriam is not just on a tombstone, but in lifesaving legislation; All of us together will be the ones to make sure that in a few years, we won’t have to put “bullet proof vest” on our kids school supply list. All of us together will be the ones to make sure that Stoneman Douglas is the last school massacre; to make sure that this happens never again.