A mere two days after the March 15 Christchurch shooting that shook the world, 19-year-old Sydney Aiello committed suicide. A survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school shooting on Valentine’s Day last year in Parkland, Fla., Aiello suffered from P.T.S.D. and survivor’s guilt while processing the deaths of one of her closest friends and her classmates. Her mother attributes Aiello’s death to her grief surrounding the Parkland shooting. On March 23, another Marjory Stoneman Douglas student, Calvin Desir took his own life, less than a week after Aiello; now the community of Parkland mourns the deaths of two more of their own. And so Parkland has been brought back into the national spotlight and the conversation about the horrors of February 2018 has been reinvigorated.
Through instances like these, gun violence has touched Generation Z, and we have decided to fight back. Although some policy change has occurred, the root of the problem has remained untouched due to politicians’ reluctance to make meaningful change. Legislators need to realize that although the big protests have passed, the problem is far from over, and Generation Z is far from shutting up. Those in power cannot continue to procrastinate passing gun laws that will save lives. Not only do people die during the shootings, but these acts of brutality affect members of the community as they mourn for their loved ones.
Gun violence leaves an emotional scar which never truly heals.
Last year, led by teenage activists Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg, the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school formed the #NeverAgain movement and united with other communities nationwide that have experienced various forms of gun violence. According to the Parkland students who organized the protests, The March for Our Lives on Washington attracted 800,000 demonstrators, and thousands more participated in the National School Walkout to commemorate the fourteen students and three adults who died in Parkland at the hands of a school shooter. In what became a defining moment of Generation Z, thousands of teenagers found their voices as they spoke out against the harsh realities of gun violence in the United States. And now, much of the hope inspired by the bravery of the Parkland survivors in their fight for justice has lost its glow as darkness again reaches Parkland in the form of the recent suicides.
Parkland isn’t the only community still scarred from school shootings. In 2012, twenty young children were killed in a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. One was Avielle Richman, whose father created the Avielle Foundation in her honor to research and better understand what instigates violent tendencies in the brain. On March 25, 2019, Mr. Richman committed suicide, just over a week after the first suicide in Parkland and two days after the second.
Gun violence has defined my generation. Just last week, my friend was required to attend classes despite threats that her high school had received saying someone would shoot up the school as well as a nearby preschool on a certain day. She said that if the school allowed the students to stay home just in case, they wouldn’t have enough school days in a year due to the number of illegitimate threats. I didn’t know until that evening whether she was safe. I felt helpless knowing that as a kid, there was nothing I could do about it.
Following the Parkland shooting, Marjory Stoneman Douglas student David Hogg told reporters, “We’re children. You guys are the adults. You need to take some action and play a role. Work together, come over your politics, and get something done.”
He’s right. No matter how fired up Generation Z is about changing laws surrounding gun regulation, we can only do so much. Only a handful are registered to vote, and even votes can only go so far.
After the horrors of the Christchurch shooting, New Zealand turned around gun laws in a matter of days and paid tremendous respect to the victims, who were killed while praying at a mosque. In the United States, victims and their families get “thoughts and prayers,” not actions. In 2018, we cried, “#NeverAgain,” but it happened again. And again. In the year following Parkland, there have been 31 more school shootings, and a mass shooting nearly every day.
The losses of Mr. Richman, Ms. Aiello, and Mr. Desir prove that shootings can lead to more deaths even years after the fact. These suicides need to propel lawmakers to take more action. Opinions on gun regulation may be a partisan issue, but when the lives of ordinary adults, teens, and children are at stake, deciding whether to neutralize the weapons responsible in order to minimize the risk of more deaths should be a bipartisan concern. I know I am far from the first teenager to call for the end of gun violence, but someday, the concept of #NeverAgain needs to stick.
Elanor Moore is a Junior from San Francisco, CA. Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.