BY: NICK SAWICKI, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Generation Z is probably one of the most politically active generations in American youth history. Whether it be the women’s march or protests over racial inequality, school walkouts over gun control or impassioned exposés over social media, our generation is at the forefront of these noble causes often leading the way. We’ve recognized early on the importance of exercising our first amendment right, for, as the Washington Post so eloquently puts it, “Democracy dies in darkness.” Students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida took this adage to heart following the horrific school shooting that took place on February 14th, 2018. On a day when love and companionship should have been flooding the school’s hallways, the ultimate act of hate was committed and 17 innocent individuals lost their lives. As Junior Cameron Kasky quickly began to realize, however, tragedies of this nature tend to follow a similar pattern. In an interview at the Harvard Kennedy School, he remarked, “I’ve seen this before, I’ve seen this happen countless times. What happens is we get two weeks in the news, we get a bundle of thoughts and prayers, everybody sends flowers, and then it’s over and people forget.” So he and students across the nation have made it their mission to make sure we #neverforget by starting a conversation about guns and gun policy and pressuring elected government officials to enact meaningful policy change to prevent such needless bloodshed from happening in the future.
Students all across America have been inspired by the courage displayed by the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which has galvanized many of them into political activism. One of my own colleagues, Erin Simard, a junior at Shady Side Academy Senior School in Pittsburgh PA, has taken it upon herself to organize a march in downtown Pittsburgh that will coincide with the March For Our Lives demonstration in Washington DC, Saturday, March 24th. Upon initially hearing news of the shooting in Parkland, Erin’s reaction was one that many of us undoubtedly shared. She states that “initially, it was sort of a reaction of ‘well, here we go again’ because shootings like this have become so common in the United States. I didn’t really have a very significant reaction.” However, when she “saw all the videos and all the descriptions by the students, that really struck [her].” Simard remembers hearing all of the students’ statements afterward about how they’re going to “make sure this never happens again” which was, to her, a “call to action of sorts.”
When asked about how she came up with the idea to organize a similar demonstration in Pittsburgh, Simard states, “The students in Florida definitely inspired me. When I heard they were organizing a march in DC and I figured out that I couldn’t go, I tried to look around to see if there was anyone who had started a march in Pittsburgh and I didn’t see anything that was started yet so I just figured, might as well start one.” By organizing this rally, Erin hopes to “draw the attention of our legislators and convince them to pass additional gun control legislation so that a tragedy such as this never happens again.”
Upon being asked about her personal views on gun laws and legislation in America, Simard states that “Donald Trump is in favor of banning bump stocks and I think that’s an easy first step. I don’t really think any age restrictions are going to change anything because the average age of a mass shooter is 25, so if you lift the age limit from 18 to 21 of the people can buy guns, I’m not sure how much that’ll do. I think that semi-automatic rifles don’t belong in the hands of citizens. Handguns are fine, but whenever civilians have guns that are designed to kill hundreds of people in a matter of minutes, it just doesn’t really make sense.”
Simard expressed how she one day hopes to become a politician and work in Washington DC, so organizing this rally has given her some insight into how DC and Harrisburg functions.
When asked about whether or not it is important for members of Generation Z to become politically active, she enthusiastically responded, “Absolutely, especially when we’re the ones being targeted.”
Special thanks to Erin Simard for graciously accepting the interview request.