How to advise your teens on gun reform

Parkland shooting inspires local students to demand change like never before.

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The recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida—an attack by a 19-year-old former student that killed 17 people—has sparked a wave of gun-control advocacy from teenagers across the nation. As many young adults are not yet old enough to vote, they are finding other ways to use their voice, whether on the Internet, on their own campuses or in the streets of D.C.

Since the Feb. 14 Parkland tragedy, students nationwide have taken to Twitter with the #NeverAgain hashtag, vowing to do everything they can to put an end to gun violence and prevent future mass shootings. Cameron Kasky, the Stoneman Douglas student who created the hashtag, also created a GoFundMe account to raise money for a new rally: March for Our Lives. The march—planned for March 24 in Washington, D.C and communities throughout the country—has nearly met its $3 million goal, with donations from celebrities such as George Clooney, Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey.

Teenagers in the DMV area have also been speaking out against gun violence.

Two high school juniors from the Potomac School in McLean created a social media group after the Parkland shooting, called Teens for Gun Reform, which organized a “lie-in” in front of the White House on Presidents Day to rally for new gun legislation. Hundreds of demonstrators attended the event, with 17 students from the Metro-D.C. area lying on the ground (later joined by more students and parents) to represent the 17 people killed in the recent tragedy.

High school walkouts have been organized in regions across the country, with several at area schools last week that generated headlines and a mixed response from school officials.

On Tuesday, Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Patrick Murphy released a statement to families about last week’s lunchtime walkout at many Arlington schools. Murphy said APS will be supporting the national school walkout planned for March 14—the one-month anniversary of the shooting—for students who wish to participate. Yet he also noted that multiple walkouts, including one planned for April 20 in which some students intend to remain absent for the rest of the day, will not be “condoned.” Murphy encouraged students to attend the March for Our Lives rally if they wish to demonstrate further.

In Fauquier County, the school board also expressed support for peaceful student demonstrations against violence. School superintendent David Jeck discussed the matter with the school board on Monday night, quoted in Fauquier Now: “They are the ones who are the targets. Doesn’t it make sense to hear what they have to say? They want to know what we are doing to make schools safe.” All three Fauquier high schools will grant students the option to participate in the national walkout on March 14.

Loudoun County Public Schools shared guidance on the walkouts with school principals in a recent email, stating that if a walkout occurs, students who exit the classroom without permission “should receive the appropriate disciplinary action.” Eric DeKenipp, Catoctin District representative on the Loudoun County School Board, has also publicly aired his objection to planned walkouts among county middle and high school students, asking on his Facebook page, “Where does it end? What type of values are we instilling in our children by encouraging them to break rules and violate policy?”

With so much activity and controversy online and in area schools, it can be challenging for parents to advise their teens, whether they want to just show support for the students at Stoneman Douglas or actively press for gun reform. If your child wants to get involved in the movement, but doesn’t know where to start, here’s a list that can help.

1. Get educated. It’s important that teenagers understand what power they have as citizens and what change is possible. Make sure that your child understands what laws and rights are currently in place regarding weapons in Virginia. They should also understand what rights they have to express their views as an American citizen.

2. Voice concerns to local officials. Although this step may seem like it won’t draw much attention to the issue, a letter written to local officials will allow your teenager’s voice to be heard. Visit online directories to learn contact information for your national and local officials.

3. Join social media efforts. Social media plays a big part in getting things done today, so it can be helpful to join online efforts, using hashtags like #NeverAgain that help to advocate for gun reform.

4. Boycott. Actress Alyssa Milano and many others are calling for a one-day boycott on March 1 of Amazon, Apple TV and FedEx due to business ties with the National Rifle Association, and other boycotts are likely to follow.

5. Donate. There are many fundraisers, such as the campaign for March for Our Lives, that advocate for gun control and accept monetary donations. There are also many organizations, such as The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and Everytown for Gun Safety, that accept donations and provide resources for getting involved.

6. Sign petitions. Online petitions abound, such as “American citizens against gun control” and “Gun Control. Now.” that can be signed and will be delivered to lawmakers. Your teen can also add a personal message with the signature.

7. Peacefully protest. Local protests will be held all across the country on March 24, most notably in D.C, and participating can be an empowering way to stand in solidarity with survivors of the Stoneman Douglas tragedy.