“We will not wait for the next school shooting”

Editor’s Note: The following op-ed was signed by over 140 student leaders and published simultaneously across over 50 student newspapers at public and private universities nationwide.

Students are taught to love a country that values guns over our lives.

Many of us hear the sound of gunfire when we watch fireworks on the fourth of July. All of us have heard the siren of an active shooter drill and asked ourselves: are we next?

By painful necessity, we have grown to become much more than students learning in a classroom — we have shed every last remnant of our childhood innocence.

Our hearts bleed from this uniquely American brand of gun violence, and yet we remind ourselves that we love our country so much that we expect better from it.

We believe that our country has the capacity to love us back. There are bullet-shaped holes in our hearts, but our spirits are unbreakable.

We will not wait for individual trauma to affect us all before we respond together — when we rediscover our empathy, we shape the moral arc of this country.

Students in the Civil Rights Movement created the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) that organized Freedom Rides, sit-ins and marches. In demanding freedom from racial violence, this group’s activism became woven into American history.

Students across America organized teach-ins during the Vietnam War to expose its calculated cruelties. Their work, in demanding freedom from conscription and taxpayer-funded violence, is intertwined with the American story.

This fall, UNC Chapel Hill students’ text exchanges during the Aug. 28 shooting reached the hands of the President. In demanding freedom from gun violence, we became one of countless before.

Because for 360,000 of us since Columbine, the toll of succumbing to the cursed emotional vocabulary of survivorship has become our American story.

Yes, it is not fair that we must rise against problems that we did not create, but the organizers of past student movements know from lived experience that we decide the future of the country. The country took note as Congress subsequently passed civil rights legislation, as they withdrew from the Vietnam war, and as the White House created the federal Office of Gun Violence Prevention.

So as students and young people alike, we should know our words don’t end on this page — we will channel them into change.

We invite you to join this generation’s community of organizers, all of us united in demanding a future free of gun violence. With our prose and protest, we protect not only our lives, but our way of life itself.

Politicians will not have the shallow privilege of reading another front-cover op-ed by students on their knees, begging them to do their jobs. They will instead contend with the reality that by uniting with each other and among parents, educators and communities, our demands become undeniable. Our movement is not just moving away from the unbearable pain of our yesterday — we move toward an unrelenting hope for our tomorrow.

Our generation dares politicians to look us in the eye and tell us they’re too afraid to try.

— Andrew Sun and Alexander Denza, UNC Chapel Hill March for Our Lives

This op-ed was signed by 144 student leaders representing over 90 groups across the nation. See the full signature list here.

This February will mark 6 years since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas took 17 lives only 45 minutes away from the University of Miami. Some students currently at UM were in the high school on that day, and others a couple miles away on lockdown. Many of us never forgot that day and proceeded to walk out of our own schools in protest. We went through endless active shooter drills and watched politicians debate whether or not our lives mattered.

At TMH we stand in solidarity with the March for Our Lives movement and their demands to end gun violence before another one of these tragedies happen.