A Student Against Gun Violence: Why I’ll Keep Marching for My Life

By James Vaughn

A government of the money, for the money, by the money. That has been our government and Parkland is tired of it.

On March 24, in the shadow of the nation’s capitol, Parkland, Sandy Hook, and other victims of gun violence nationwide made clear that a change was going to come, that a change needs to come. Now, it’s just a matter of how soon.

It was hard to ignore what the speakers at March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. were saying, with many of them speaking from experience and citing undeniable facts. One of the most impressive components of the march on D.C. and the movement for gun control is how students have laid out concrete and clear steps toward change: a waiting period after the purchase of a gun, a ban on bumper stocks, raising the age to buy a gun from 18 to 21, and a ban on assault rifles.

Since I was born, there have been so many mass shootings in this country that I have become numb to them. The process is always the same: “27 dead at Sandy Hook elementary school” appears in a notification, thoughts and prayers and hashtags appear for three weeks at most, and then we move on—because it’s never the right time to talk about gun control.

Students from Parkland are telling America that it’s time now. An inclusive and widespread change movement lies just beyond the walls and has begun to lay siege to the alienating status quo. I am a proud soldier of this army and I will continue to do my part in laying siege until the status quo no longer reigns.

Seeing kids my age on stage in D.C. staring down millions of critics inspired me. These young people are fearless and are entitled to a better world for themselves. They spoke their truth and made sure everyone heard it.

As the Parkland survivors pointed out, their privilege was why they were being heard. They declared that if they were going to be put on that stage, they were going to bring everyone with them. I’m happy to be on this stage too, and it’s now up to all of us on to the stage to speak. To yell. Enough is enough! Enough Black and Latino boys and girls have died at the hands of guns in cities like New York, Chicago, L.A. and D.C. Enough unarmed and innocent black boys and girls have been killed by police guns. Enough students have been shot down in their schools. Enough.

I am privileged too in some ways. My family is conventionally structured: a mom, a dad, and two children. We are a middle class family of Protestants in America. I go to a very good school and also live in one of the largest and most diverse cities in the world.

But still, I’m entitled to better. I’m a young Black man who doesn’t want to have to worry about whether his friends got home safely. I’m a young man who would love to walk into school without thinking, will I walk out today, or will I be carried out? I may be at a school that allows me to feel safe and secure, but I will not stop yelling until our biannual lockdown drill becomes unnecessary and I am no longer “mistaken” for a suspect in a case.

I know that some epidemics are virtually unavoidable. However, the gun violence epidemic is not one of them. This epidemic is a matter of whether politicians choose to govern for a seat, or in the seat we give them. The country was founded on three unalienable rights of man: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If we as a country cannot guarantee these things, we must evaluate whether John Locke’s words truly define us or find a way to protect the lives of our citizens. The latter is a lot easier and more practical to do.

So I march both for myself and the children I will have one day. Politicians are putting our lives on the line for $500,000 in campaign funds and a Congressional seat, and so I walked out of my seat in school and I’ll walk out again on April 20.

I have been on this earth for 16 years, 4 months, and 5 days and I have had enough.


James Vaughn is a student at Collegiate School, New York City.

 

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