Many proponents of our current president seem to place the United States on a pedestal of being the “greatest country.” If we measure greatness as being where we stand in comparison with other nations, we rank near the top in most areas. We are the third largest country in both size and population, we have the largest economy, and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania’s research on the best country to live in places us at number eight.
We also have the highest rate of school shootings over any other developed country.
However, the number of people content with that is dwindling. On March 24, 2018, thousands of protesters took to the streets as part of “March for Our Lives,” a national march started by the survivors of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida. The Parkland shooting is currently the third deadliest school shooting in the United States.
“Not one more,” the March’s Mission Statement demands. “We cannot allow one more child to be shot at school. We cannot allow one more teacher to make a choice to jump in front of a firing assault rifle to save the lives of students. We cannot allow one more family to wait for a call or text that never comes. Our schools are unsafe. Our children and teachers are dying. We must make it our top priority to save these lives.”
The march had over 800 partner marches across the U.S. in addition to the primary march in Washington D.C.
One such march occurred here in Greensboro, organized by local high schoolers. The event began at Government Plaza at 2:00 p.m. with some brief bullhorn speeches and chants to energize the large crowd that came out despite the 40-degree rainy weather. Eventually the crowd of wet signs, banners and many umbrellas began snaking its way down Elm street to LeBauer Park. Throughout the march, chanting and songs brought together the mixed bag of marchers ranging from families with children still in strollers to elders of the community using canes.
The message was clear: a change needs to be made in how we regulate firearms in our nation. To reinforce this message, sign making parties were held by local organizers leading up to the march. While some took a blunt approach by directly calling out the National Rifle Association for their part in keeping gun laws as lax as they are, other signs took less direct approaches and simply called for a review of our current solutions to this problem.
“I think something has to be done,” said Jonathan H., a high school freshman. “I don’t know what that is but it isn’t more guns.”
When the marchers all arrived at LeBauer Park, the second rally began taking place beginning with more chants. The high schoolers who organized Greensboro’s march then took the stage to voice their feelings on the matter.
“Studies have shown that police officers have an average of 20% accuracy. That means only 20% of their bullets hit their intended targets,” said Anne Joy, an organizer for the event. “20% accuracy or less if guns are being used by teachers who are trained to teach and not fire a weapon is not a solution.”
There were many reminders that the upcoming midterm elections could change our gun laws but only if people came out to vote. The United States had a notoriously low midterm voter turnout in 2014 of only 37 percent of eligible voters casting a ballot.
Following the multiple speakers, poets and musicians expressed the need for change before the rally ended.
“Just being able to come out and see that it matters to so many people means a lot to me,” said Sadie R. who attends Grimsley High School. “I’ve sometimes felt like no one, no adults, actually care enough, otherwise something would have been done.”
While the activism of these young people is inspiring, the march has ended. Many protesters have been left with no direct plan to move forward other than voting in the midterms and hoping for change.