Listen to our children

The shooting massacre of 17 people in February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, sent yet another shockwave through the nation. Access to weapons, in particular assault rifles, has surpassed crisis levels, leaving communities submerged in confusion, doubt, shock, and fear.

But students are now responding. They are banding together in a leadership role, seeking center stage in this absolutely critical debate. All eyes are on them.

#NeverAgain

Students from the Parkland school have given scores of interviews and gained hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter. A group visited the White House and the Florida State Capitol. They’ve challenged senators and congressional representatives on live television and gone viral in videos with pleas to prevent another slaughter. We should sit up, pay close attention to and support the #NeverAgain movement.

David Hogg, a senior who directs the school’s television station, interviewed other students about the shooting while they were under lockdown. “We’re children. You guys are the adults,” he said. “You need to take some action and play a role. Work together, come over your politics and get something done.” Hogg now has more than 389,000 followers on Twitter.

Emma Gonzalez, a senior in Parkland, gave an impassioned speech at a Ft. Lauderdale rally.

“Every single person up here today, all these people should be home grieving,” Gonzalez said. “It’s time for victims to be the change that we need to see.”

During the shooting, Sam Zeif, a senior, exchanged text messages with his 14-year-old brother, Matthew, who was in a classroom one floor up. Matthew’s teacher, Scott Beigel, was shot dead after ushering students to safety. Sam later shared the exchange on Twitter, where it was “liked” more than 150,000 times.

“I didn’t plan for them to go viral,” said Zeif. He was among the group of students invited to the White House to meet with President Trump. “I just wanted to share with the world because no brothers, or sisters, or family members or anyone should ever have to share those texts with anyone.”

Weapon of war

Zeif lost Joaquin Oliver, a friend he described as “practically a brother.” “I turned 18 the day after” the shooting, Zeif told the president. “Woke up to the news that my best friend was gone. And I don’t understand why I could still go in a store and buy a weapon of war.”

Cameron Kasky, a junior, was part of a group text that began after the shooting and became a way for friends to support one another and discuss how to respond to the violence. He and other students went on to start the “Never Again” movement. Kasky started a GoFundMe page, too, and that effort has raised nearly $2 million for the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., on March 24 and for sister marches across the country.

See details on the March here bit.ly/marchForOurLives.

“States for Gun Safety”

In the immediate aftermath of Parkland, four governors stepped forward, including Governor Cuomo. He and others announced the “States for Gun Safety” coalition to combat gun violence. The coalition will advance a multi-pronged effort to try to bring a halt to sales of murderous weapons.

“New York is joining with New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island to take matters into our own hands,” said Cuomo. “Not only will this groundbreaking partnership take new steps to prevent illegal guns from crossing state lines, but by forming the nation’s first Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium, we will be able to better inform policymakers nationwide on how to keep their communities safe.”

Our nation’s young people are taking a leading role in protecting the public’s health.

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