First Amendment vs Second Amendment: March For Our Lives Rally Attracts Thousands Of Youth Demanding Gun Control

This Saturday the 24th of March, hundreds of thousands have gathered across the United States and the world to protest against gun violence. The rally comes a month after 17 people were killed in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. The March For Our Lives rally took place in Washington D.C. and included support from a number of celebrities, but it is the turn out of young citizens who have become the face of this demand for protection against gun related incidents. The rally has ended with no incidents of violence, and instead a feeling stronger than hope lingers in the breath of the future generation who are leading this movement.

Common phrases written on signs carried by those protesting included the movement’s slogans “enough” and “never again”, which were also frequently chanted. Many other signs across the country pleaded to “protect kids not guns”, demanded “books not bullets”, and asked “am I next?” Others held up both their palms showing the words “don’t” written on their right hand, and “shoot” written on their left. The D.C. rally included a stage where teenagers from schools affected by shootings across the country gave moving speeches, all in favour of gun reform that protects kids of all ages, races and genders. Many of the speeches held power in their symbolic messages. Emma Gonzalez, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas student who has become one of the main faces for this movement, stood in silence for four minutes and twenty-six seconds during her speech before stating: “Since the time that I came out here, it has been six minutes and 20 seconds. The shooter has ceased shooting, and will soon abandon his rifle, blend in with the students as they escape, and walk free for an hour before arrest. Fight for your lives before it’s someone else’s job.” Sam Fuentes, a fellow Stoneman Douglas student who survived being shot in the leg, led the crowd in singing Happy Birthday for Nicholas Dworet, a fellow student who died in the shooting and would have turned 18 years old today. 11 year-old Naomi Wadler further drew attention to the intersectionality of gun violence by stating: “I represent the African-American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant beautiful girls full of potential.” And Yolanda Renee King, the 9-year-old grand daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., referenced her grandfathers famous speech stating: “I have a dream that enough is enough. That this should be a gun-free world. Period.” Student David Hogg highlighted the foundational message behind this movement, which is aimed at the government and asks for political action on the issue, by explaining “they say that they’re going to implement these policies to change children’s lives. They say that they’re going to make sure to work on your behalf as a Constituent. But they don’t, and we need to hold them accountable”.

The day has brought with it a novel, but refreshing, notion that children can be change-makers, leaders and #notjustahastag. Today has questioned the constant portrayal of the younger generation as narcissistic “millennials” who are often shamed and blamed for arbitrary problems. This generation stands for something that past generations have failed them in; they stand for peace. The children and teenagers who attended these marches across the world are part of ‘Generation Future’, which will fight for their lives to be brighter and more peaceful despite the hardships they will endure to get there. The message and demand from the youth is clear: they want their lives. To stay alive and be protected by a system that will fail them in so many other ways. And if a government cannot provide that simple demand, what is it doing?

Gun violence in the United States is, in a way, talked about way too much. It is constantly on the news across the world, not because it is changing, or progressing, or being debated about in legislation and reforms. But because it is an extremely common occurrence that features daily in the news as an event involving civilians, not politicians. As highlighted by Naomi Wadler, gun violence also continues to be an intersectional issue. Even without considering gender, Black American students are three times more likely, and Hispanic students twice as likely, to experience a shooting than White students. These statistics highlight that issues of violence are layered and complex, and cannot be solved by simply seeing the news of another shooting, or even a successful rally that results in reform.

These issues are solved by changing our perspectives and systems to be more peaceful and equal for all citizens. It starts with movements like this one today, which demand reforms for guns, that lead to funding for increased education and awareness, and only finishes when we all have an understanding that there is never a need for violence of any form against any person around the world. And it is not naive to think that this is the generation who can achieve that, for today is proof that the freedom of speech will always come first in a race against the second amendment.

Kate Eager


The Organization for World Peace