By Kaydee Donohoo and Simran P. Gupta
In the wake of the Florida shooting, students across the country have been planning protests and walk-outs in support of gun control. They have been addressing the press and discussing what these mass shootings mean to them, how they affect their education, and how they affect their understanding of the country they live in. These students are mainly high school students, and among these, most are teenage girls or young women.
As politicians and political activists across the ideological spectrum continue debating the perceived merits and pitfalls of legislation introducing gun control, students who have felt left out of the conversation have been stepping up and claiming space. Across most major media networks and local broadcasting channels, these students are speaking out about their stances and desire to be protected over the right to own machine guns and assault rifles. A Parkland, FL student said on CNN air, “We are not to be bought by the NRA…We are the ones who deserve to be kept safe.” Young adult fiction author Julie Murphy quoted the tweet on her account and said, “let the history books say the revolution was led by teenage girls.”
In response to a USA Today article talking about students planning to walk out of schools to protest the lack of gun control, CNN political commentator Jack Kingston tweeted, “O really? ‘Students’ are planning a nationwide rally? Not left wing gun control activists using 17yr kids in the wake of a horrible tragedy?” Sarah Chadwick, a Parkland, FL student, quoted the tweet and said “Hey Jack! Just wanted to let you know that, yes! Us 17yrs really are planning a nationwide rally! It’s crazy what determination, and a strong work ethic can lead to! But I mean you have neither of those things so I wouldn’t expect you to understand.”
All of this is to say, why does this teenage uprising surprise us so much? Why are we skeptical of the teens leading the fight, especially the teenage girls? Julie Murphy could not have tweeted truer words, and how perfect that they were said by a young adult author. After all, the young adult genre is one of the few niches in the book world where teenagers are not underestimated or belittled.
Instead, they are the heroes and revolutionaries. Teenagers, especially teenage girls, consistently save entire societies and kingdoms from tyrants or destruction in some other way. We might remember Katniss Everdeen from “The Hunger Games,” or Luna from “Reign of Shadows,” and countless more examples. More and more authors are chiming in with their support, declaring that they are not surprised, that we have been preparing our youth for this all along.
So let’s take a cue from these students and the authors backing them. Let’s stop underestimating the youth of the country, especially the adolescents most directly affected by the trend in mass shootings in general, as well as the most recent one. Adolescents are consistently underestimated and brushed aside as naive, idealistic, or overemotional. However, oftentimes they have the clearest view of what action needs to be taken and why. As these students are saying, they are the ones most directly affected by this issue. Don’t be the adult, or even young adult, who scoffs at a teenagers ability to be well-informed and politically active. Applaud and support these high-schoolers for taking a stand and taking action at a time when not enough “true adults” have been doing the same.