The killings of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida may be the massacre that finally gets federal and state governments to enact common-sense gun control laws. That should have happened after Columbine. It should have happened after Virginia Tech. It should have happened after Sandy Hook. But it didn’t.
The Stoneman Douglas shooting is where our generation draws a line. Our parents and grandparents did not succeed in ensuring our safety at school. So we must do it ourselves.
We are Generation Z, the generation after millennials. We outnumber them by nearly one million and may be the largest cohort of future American spenders since the baby boomers. We have more than $30 billion in spending power and wield enormous influence in family spending. Our spending power will only increase as we begin to earn our own wages.
We will flex our muscles at the ballot box, too. Many high school seniors will cast their first ballots this November, and in 2020, a majority of today’s high school students will most likely be able to vote in their first presidential election. And we will not forget the elected officials who turned their backs on their duty to protect children.
Let us remind politicians like Donald Trump, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell who accept donations from the National Rifle Association and oppose efforts to restrict gun purchases that we are the future leaders and voters of this country. Let us remind corporations like FedEx that provide discounts to N.R.A. members that we are their future customers.
The Stoneman Douglas students who began speaking out after the killings last month have better articulated the need for common-sense gun control laws and school safety than our elders ever have. But those students cannot do it alone. We as a generation must band together behind them, just as Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and others stood behind George Washington and fought to create this great country.
We applaud many of the elected officials who have said they will work to reduce gun violence in their states. We hope Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey, our home state, will work with us and other advocates to do the same. We also support companies like Dick’s Sporting Goods, Avis Budget Group, Hertz, Delta, United and Walmart, which have stood behind the principles of the March for Our Lives movement and either cut ties with the N.R.A. or changed their policies on firearms sales.
On March 24, hundreds of thousands of children and teenagers nationwide will participate in March for Our Lives. We are among the 19 students helping organize New Jersey’s march, which will take place in Newark, a city with far too much gun violence. We implore students, their parents, teachers, school administrators, religious leaders, corporate executives and elected officials across the country to join any march, no matter where they are, and fight to make our schools safe.
March for Our Lives is not just one day. It represents the official start of when we all must stand with the Stoneman Douglas students and say, “Never again.” This isn’t about being aligned with one political party or another. This is about protecting this nation’s children, whether they are related to you by blood, or whether they are children you have taught or nurtured.
We are the future of this country, yet we can no longer assume that we are safe from mass shootings in our schools. Nor can we assume our elders will protect us. Instead, we have to work ourselves to end senseless killing, not just for our sakes, but for the sakes of future generations of Americans. ☐