By Juliana Simone Carrasco
After the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February, I went with my mom to a Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She had been a volunteer for a while, but before the Parkland shooting, I hadn’t considered my role in preventing gun violence. After it, I felt like I had to act and knew there must be more students like me could do to help end the gun violence crisis. As a junior in high school, I’d never been involved in any kind of activism, but I had to try.
Turns out lots of other young people came to the meeting, too, and we all got together and decided to form our own Students Demand Action chapter. Since that day we’ve been hard at work registering and pre-registering voters, phone banking, canvassing, and participating in local events like the Miami Wear Orange event for National Gun Violence Awareness Day.
I’ve grown up in the midst of our nation’s gun violence crisis. My generation is frequently called the “mass shooting generation.” We’ve grown up with lockdown drills, fearing that our school might be next. I grew up and still live in Miami — not too far from Parkland, and at my school (and probably around the country), there was an overwhelming feeling that it could have just as easily been us.
And this worry that gun deaths are on the rise is backed up by research. New data was recently released by the CDC showing that 2017 was the third year in a row where gun deaths have increased. And for the first time in modern history, firearms killed substantially more Americans than motor vehicle deaths. The difference here is that our leaders in Washington took action to address car deaths as a public health crisis, while our gun violence crisis has not received the same treatment.
Time and again, Americans are heartbroken by gun violence and our lawmakers in Washington fail to take action. This election cycle, Americans voted overwhelmingly for candidates who support gun violence prevention policies, sending a clear message: it’s time to #BreakThePattern of federal inaction and pass stronger gun laws.
Students like me — and everyday Americans — will be watching to make sure they do. They owe it to us.
We’ve been hard at work every day since Parkland. We know change won’t happen overnight, but we won’t give up until the number of deaths from gun violence falls from 100 a day to zero. Now that elections are over, and we’ve sent so many gun sense champions to Congress, students are turning our attention to what comes next. We’ve made it clear that we’re demanding more, and we’ll be holding our lawmakers accountable.
Fighting for change can be overwhelming — especially when you’re a busy high school student juggling the looming pressure of college applications with extracurriculars, but we must keep speaking out and let lawmakers know they must stand on the side of gun safety. We have to keep reminding lawmakers that they work for us — even those of us too young to vote. We need them to pass common-sense gun laws because we need this crisis to end.
Our voices might not be the loudest in the room, but we’ll continue to fight for better. Don’t wait until gun violence affects your school, your family, or your town. Help us demand better from our politicians in 2019 by texting STUDENTS to 644-33 to join gun violence prevention advocates in your community.
Juliana Simone Carrasco is a student of New World School of the Arts and is a volunteer leader with the Miami Chapter of Students Demand Action.