'Road to Change' Seeks to Curb Gun Violence
A Culver Teenager does Her Part in Trying to Stop School Shootings
July 26, 2018
By Sami Shanman, Age 14
Kid Scoop Media Correspondent
March For Our Lives was started by a group of Marjory Stoneman Douglas students after 17 students died on their Parkland, Fla. campus in one of the largest school shootings in American History. It has now grown to include students who have been victims of gun violence from all across the country.
Those students soon put together "March For Our Lives" to lead protests across the country in response to the inaction of politicians who have failed to pass legislation to protect students. After the march and two national school walkouts, they piled on a bus and began the "Road For Change." During this tour, survivors of the Parkland shootings and other student activists visited 20 states, stopping in 75 cities over a period of 60 days.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is confident that if we continue "speaking up, standing up, and moving forward when our government won't," gun violence won't have to be a fact of life. He believes that there has been too much talk about protecting gun rights, but not enough talk about protecting student lives.
Beginning in June and continuing through August, they began the tour, which consisted of three legs. Parkland survivor David Hogg, who was born in Los Angeles 18 years ago, explained that he was surprised by how much people care about each other. In every city, no matter the culture or attitude toward guns, Hogg said that everyone respected one another and cared for each other.
In June, Road For Change came to L.A. and visited the sprawling Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools campus, the African American Museum, and Saint Elmo Village, a community art and housing facility
Saint Elmo Village was chosen to host a community barbecue on June 20 because of its surrounding neighborhood. South Los Angeles has long been a victim of gun violence. Some claim that the media only pays attention to the shootings that occur in white, privileged neighborhoods, but it often forgets about those who face the same type of violence on a daily basis.
One of the most important things that David Hogg said he has learned during the tour was the difference between sympathy and empathy, and how it's "not about speaking up for other people, it's about listening and taking their stories with me and sharing them, but not speaking for them, and raising their voices whenever possible."
Hogg is one of the people who complain that the media seems to ignore the shootings that happen everyday in neighborhoods like South L.A., and how the only shootings that get attention are those that happen in schools in white communities. The struggles faced by those who see and experience this type of violence daily can never be ignored or forgotten and the lives lost in these communities are just as valuable and important as the lives lost in shootings such as Parkland, Hogg said.
Throughout this whole movement, we must remember to not ignore the protests and demonstrations that happen in these communities, and we must include them in all of the discussions and listen to their voices just as much as we listened to the survivors of Parkland or the Pulse Nightclub shootings in Florida in 2016.
One of the main goals of this tour was getting youth registered and educated about voting. The most effective way to make change is not only about advocating and speaking up, it's also about registering and voting. California was one of the first states that took steps to make voter registration easier and 100,000 young people pre-registered to vote in the first year, according to Mayor Garcetti.
In California, pre-registration is legal for those who are 16 or older, and registration and voting is legal for those who are 18 and up. So, what is the best way for someone who is too young to vote or to pre-register to vote to help in this movement? Hogg said that they should encourage everyone they know who is older--parents, siblings, other relatives and friends--to go to the polls.
Hogg also noted that younger people can be a student poll worker, or can volunteer to be part of a candidate's campaign. If you find an issue or a cause you care about, Hogg urges, you should focus on getting others registered and voting, writing letters and calling, and using your voice in every way possible.
Another important component of the tour was educating others about the intentions of the movement. Matt Deisch, one of the Parkland survivors, responded to the misconception that the students are against guns and against the Second Amendment of the Constitution by explaining that they appreciate the right to "bear arms," but specifically the "well-regulated" part.
If someone is a responsible gun owner, Deisch said, they have nothing to worry about. No one is trying to take away their right to own a weapon, but the movement is trying to put measures in place to stop guns from getting into the wrong hands.
One woman who lost her sister to gun violence illustrated the deadly results of weapons getting into the hands of people who shouldn't have them.
Her sister was married to an abusive man who had a gun. She reported him and his gun was taken away, and she dropped the charges. But the husband was able to petition to get his same gun back, and three years later, he shot and killed her while she was at work. Had the system functioned properly, the gun would never have been returned and the sister would still be alive, the survivor said.
The Road To Change offers amazing opportunities to get communities active and involved in the conversation about gun control. It helps youth learn how to find their voice and become leaders, and it stresses the importance of speaking up, listening to others, and--above all else--voting.