One month after the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Fl. that took 17 lives, students across the nation and world will leave their classes at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes to honor the victims of the Parkland tragedy and all victims of gun violence. Vanderbilt’s Enough: National School Walk Out will take place outside of Central Library, where organizers Ben Lackner and Kelly MacDonald will be honoring the lives lost.
“The most important goal we can immediately accomplish from this walkout is to start a dialogue on campus about gun violence. Once we accomplish that, we hope there will be lots of students who want to get involved in the issue,” Lackner said. “From there, we’re planning on registering students to vote, coordinating letter writing campaigns to representatives throughout the country, and organizing other initiatives that will work towards preventing gun violence and making our schools and our country a safer place.”
According to Empower, the youth arm of the Women’s March organization, there are over 2500 registered walkouts across the country. In addition to registering with Empower, Lackner and MacDonald are working in partnership with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and are hoping to start a chapter of the organization on campus.
It’s our hope that this walkout…will be a glaring signal that people our age refuse to be overlooked any longer
“Like many people, we were shocked and saddened by the February 14th school shooting in Parkland, Florida,” Lackner said. “We were also disheartened by the fact that shooting like this occur frequently without any real change in our nation’s policies towards gun violence, and when we saw the courage of the survivors of the shooting, we realized that we didn’t have an excuse to stand idle as these tragedies occured. Inspired by these students, we researched ways that we could get involved, and found that there were gun violence prevention organizations that were looking to bring chapters to universities like Vanderbilt.”
Empower’s specific demands include banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines, expanding background checks to all gun sales, passing gun violence restraining order laws, which would allow the temporary removal of firearms from those who show signs of potential harm to themselves or others and preventing police forces from having weaponry similar to a military. Lackner and MacDonald said that the upcoming demonstration is a sign to government leaders that young Americans have had enough of the gun violence and of having their voices ignored.
“It’s no secret that voter turnout for those in the 18-24 age group is lower than it is for any other age group,” Lackner said. “Politicians and the NRA know that people our age are typically disengaged politically–they take advantage of this apathy to enact policies that people our age can’t effectively oppose. It’s our hope that this walkout–as well as the simultaneous walkouts occurring throughout the country–will be a glaring signal that people our age refuse to be overlooked any longer on policy debates that directly affect our lives.”