5 Parkland Students Explain Why They Met With Tallahassee Lawmakers

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In this op-ed, five students from Parkland, Florida — Victoria Mejia, 15, Sheryl “Oli” Acquaroli, 16, Daniella Ellison, 17, Logan Green, 16, and Ashley Hernandez, 16 — explain why they traveled to their state’s capitol to fight for gun reform following the Parkland shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

We write as devastated, scared, and angry students who just spent days in Tallahassee fighting for those who don’t have voices anymore. We write as students who have been seen screaming and crying for meaningful change across all media platforms for the last week.

We are writing this in honor of not only the 17 angels lost at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, but for all victims of gun violence across the country. We are students from schools across Broward County — Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, South Broward High School, and St. Thomas Aquinas High School — who have seen the lives of our friends and families torn apart right before our eyes. As children who have witnessed this our entire lives, along with other tragedies that have occurred due to military-grade assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, we are thankful for your thoughts and prayers, but we need action. We need something to change. To put it simply, we have grown up in reactive school systems that have taught us how to hide from school shooters instead of eliminating the root of the problem: the guns they’ve been killing people with.

As children who were always told that we should be seen and not heard, we never thought we would be writing an opinion editorial for Teen Vogue. Granted, we also never thought we would have to do an adult’s job for them. Our generation has received the short end of the stick, with regard to how we are looked upon and respected. Now, although we seem to be recognized and acknowledged, we will not be silent ever again. We are the post-Columbine generation. We were told to play dead if a shooter storms our schools, or to stay quiet so they couldn’t hear you. We have seen countless mass shootings across our TV screens since we were learning how to walk.

Now, the epidemic of gun-related mass murders across the country is being combated by a barrage of youth protests. Enough is enough. Policy change seems to be harder than ever, even against weapons of mass destruction that do not belong on our domestic home front. Frankly, we would be absolutely terrified to raise a kid in the state of our country now.

We support and recognize the Second Amendment but believe there is no need for a civilian to possess weapons and high-capacity magazines meant for war. There is absolutely no reason for any civilian to own an Armalite rifle (AR-15), a weapon designed to kill as efficiently as possible, along with other military-grade assault weapons. They make mass killings possible, and there is no need to have them available on the market.

Additionally, we believe in the necessity of a national gun registry or database, which is currently against the law. If critics of this movement want to compare guns to cars, we might as well register them like we do our vehicles and get rid of the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act of 1986, the federal law preventing this registry. Putting this into effect will streamline background checks and prevent guns from getting into the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.

Politicians claim that gun violence is a mental health issue, so if that is the case, those with documented mental health problems should also not be able to own a gun. Arming our schoolteachers is not a solution, either — teachers are here to educate us, not to be soldiers. We can’t even imagine how destructive it would be to have more guns circulating in the school system.

While in Tallahassee, we received overwhelming support from a number of legislators and adults, and we thank you all a thousand times over. The main thing we students want to see is meaningful change — not half-step measures designed to respond to political pressure. We want change in the way the gun-control process works and change in the amount of funding schools receive. To the politicians working against us: We promise that if you can’t undertake the necessary changes, you will be voted out and someone more supportive toward this battle — and our lives — will take your place.

Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, please recognize that what we’re fighting for is a necessary change. Should you recognize that, welcome to our movement. Should you not, we’re wishing you nothing less than a wonderful retirement when you are voted out of office in the upcoming election. You may not be ones who keep your word, but we surely will keep ours.

Related: Parkland Shooting Survivor Emma Gonzalez Gives Compelling Speech at an Anti-Gun Rally

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