The most powerful gun lobby in the U.S. is facing its greatest threat yet: Generation Z.
Less than two weeks after a deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, left 17 dead and more than a dozen injured at Stoneman Douglas High School, teens across the country have made a simple request to the nation: They don’t want to fear getting shot in their schools. And they’re fighting like hell to make sure we know it.
The National Rifle Association and the politicians who pocket money from them likely hoped talk of gun control would simmer down as the days went on, but it has not.
Instead, students are continuing the fight to make sure they and those who died stay in the headlines.
Two days after their friends were slaughtered by a gunman with an AR-15, a group of about 50 teenagers walked out of South Broward High School in Florida to protest for better gun control laws. It was just the beginning.
This week, students left their schools in droves across the country to protest the NRA. Hundreds of students staged walkouts in Florida as others headed to the State Capitol in Tallahassee to pressure lawmakers.
In Washington, D.C., dozens of student activists gathered in front of the White House to make their voices heard.
Students in states including Arizona, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, and Colorado ― among others ― showed solidarity with the victims and students of Douglas High by also leaving classes to demand that no civilian gets access to a weapon of war.
From Children To Leaders
“I’m 17, but in a matter of days have aged decades,” Douglas High student Delaney Tarr said during a protest in Florida last week.
It’s been a sentiment echoed by many of the survivors who have been forced to grow up faster than they should have. Yet somehow, they’ve found a way to turn their immense grief into actionable change.
Dozens of student leaders — whose numbers keep growing — from Douglas High have been organizing protests while delivering impassioned, articulate arguments as to why they want better gun control.
At the same protest as Tarr, student leader Emma Gonzalez spit fire at the NRA.
“Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have been done to prevent this: We call BS!” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez ― along with other student activists including Cameron Kasky and David Hogg ― is just one of many new leaders who have sacrificed their own childhoods to fight the NRA. Students swayed President Donald Trump into attending a listening session. Others have met with politicians to voice their concerns. Students all over are grabbing the media spotlight not because they want it, but because they refuse to let the movement decay.
Social Media Savants
No one knows how to hurt feelings more than a pissed-off teenager. Some people in power ― including NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch ― are learning that the hard way. Observe:
Teenagers from Douglas High are using social media to elevate their platform in incredible ways. Gonzalez has amassed more than 500,000 Twitter followers since the tragedy, and Twitter has proactively verified many of the Parkland students raising their voices. Students are reaching politicians and celebrities who are helping to further elevate their platform. And amidst all of that, they’re actively fighting trolls and conspiracy theorists convinced the children of a school shooting are “crisis actors.”
“The students on Twitter have been a wonderful counterpoint to what we have seen as this machine of right-wing propaganda,” Jen Golbeck, an associate professor at the University of Maryland’s College of Information Studies, told NBC News.
It’s bad time to be Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.
At a CNN Town Hall on Wednesday, Douglas High junior Kasky had a simple question for Rubio:
“Can you tell me right now that you will not accept a single donation from the NRA?” he asked.
Rubio fumbled the question, eventually saying he would continue to receive NRA money because “people buy into my agenda.” He has so far accepted $3,303,355 in donations from the NRA in his political career.
Children are challenging and embarrassing politicians who refuse to act on responsible gun control. In Florida, protestors made clear they plan to vote out any elected officials who take NRA money.
During the president’s listening session on Wednesday, Douglas student Sam Zeif tearfully asked the president how an AR-15 could come into someone’s hands.
“I turned 18 the day after, woke up to the news my best friend was gone,” Zeif said. “I don’t understand why I can still go in a store and buy a weapon of war, an AR. How is it that easy to buy this type of weapon? How have we not stopped this after Columbine, after Sandy Hook? I’m sitting with a mother who lost her son. It’s still happening.”
Instead of stricter gun laws, the president has suggested arming teachers. Students of Douglas high ― along with teachers themselves ― have blasted the absurd solution.
Because of newly increased pressure, the Justice Department must now look again at bump stocks, a device that enables a shooter to fire a gun as if it were automatic and was used in last year’s Las Vegas mass shooting. Even hard-line Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott has broken with Trump and other GOP lawmakers by announcing a proposal Friday that would raise the age of buying a gun in Florida to 21 and to strengthen background checks.
Last week, Al Hoffman Jr., a top Republican political donor in Florida, announced he would no longer give money to politicians that did not support a ban of AR-15s.
“For how many years now have we been doing this — having these experiences of terrorism, mass killings — and how many years has it been that nothing’s been done?” Hoffman told The New York Times. “It’s the end of the road for me.”
Sponsorships Dropping For NRA
This week, the NRA has seen their corporate sponsors jumping ship in record numbers, dealing what might ultimately be the heaviest blow to the organization.
Because of the student activism in Parkland and beyond, companies from airlines to banks have made clear that they will cut ties with the NRA for the foreseeable future. The First Bank of Omaha announced Thursday that because of increased pressure from customers, they would no longer support gun lobbyists.
“Customer feedback has caused us to review our relationship with the NRA. As a result, First National Bank of Omaha will not renew its contract with the National Rifle Association to issue the NRA Visa Card,” a First National Bank spokesman told HuffPost.
Insurance company MetLife has followed suit, along with airlines Delta and United, cybersecurity company Symantec, multiple car rental companies and more. The list continues to grow.
And for those companies still linked to the NRA, don’t worry. HuffPost is keeping track.
Get Ready To March
It all leads to this: On March 24, a “March For Our Lives” will be held across the country to demand that lawmakers enact meaningful gun control legislation. A group of student activists from Douglas High have organized what is likely to be a massive event, and will be marching in the country’s capital.
“In every single city, we are going to be marching together as students begging for our lives,” Kasky said on ABC. “This isn’t about the GOP. This isn’t about the Democrats. This is about the adults. We feel neglected. At this point, you’re either with us or you’re against us.”
We’re with you.