OPINION: The Social Movement We've Always Needed: #NeverAgain

Graphic by Molly Antell

CW: Gun violence, murder

In the past year or so, President Donald J. Trump’s actions and his response to heated political issues have inspired many Americans to collective action and continued protest.

Collective action itself is not a special feature of Trump’s presidency, but the frequency with which these movements occur, their public weight, and surprising turnout are remarkable elements of Trump’s time in office. These movements have advocated for women’s rights, climate change mitigation, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — against Trump’s travel ban — and now, for gun reform.

Feb. 14, Nikolas Cruz shot and killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida. This was the moment that — through shock, terror, and grievance — ignited the flame, calling for immediate gun reform. Quickly after, students began walkouts all over the nation, and big-name companies cut their ties with the National Rifle Association.

The #NeverAgain movement demands “stricter background checks for gun buyers and a plan for a nationwide protest.” This two-week old movement has already made strides, not only in gaining public attention and spreading gun violence awareness, but also demanding the attention of many government officials.

Students debated Marco Rubio at a town hall meeting, which allowed the world to see what the survivors of the Parkland shooting want for the future and also allowed for Rubio to discuss his promise to commit to gun reform. Later on, a Florida lawmaker’s aide was fired after claiming that Parkland students are “actors.”

With its beginning almost two weeks ago and its success so great, the #NeverAgain movement has people wondering why this movement is so different from others. There are plenty of social movements that were mobilized after a shared grievance or call to action, especially during Trump’s time in office, but #NeverAgain is much more successful.

The answer lies with the young people who are leading this movement. In comparison to the Women’s March or Environmental movement, #NeverAgain is led by high school students.

According to researcher Morley Winograd, the Z Generation or “plurals” that have suddenly made gun reform such an urgent issue, are “an ‘adaptive’ generation” that “take the problems that were brought to light by their predecessors and [tries] to work them out.”

Mary Beth Tinker, whose name is synonymous with student protest and free speech, complimented the Parkland students and the #NeverAgain movement: “These kids are picking up the baton. It’s wonderful and heartening, and I know there are so many young people taking it from here.

In fact, this is a demographic that has a considerably louder voice in the gun-debate conversation because they have witnessed gun-violence and are possible victims to gun violence on their campuses.

Maddy Neff SC ’21 is a politics major from Palo Alto, CA. She aspires to meet all the dogs in the world.