Thousands of students and their supporters are expected to descend upon Washington on Saturday to encourage lawmakers to act on gun control. But as young people become more of the focus in conversations about mass shootings, some say that their voices are being left out of the conversation — especially ones that don't fit in the current narrative.
As many as half a million protesters are expected to fill the streets of Washington for the March for Our Lives, an anti-gun-violence rally organized by students.
After a gunman killed 17 people at a South Florida high school in February, several survivors have gone to Capitol Hill, Harvard and cable news to get their message out for stricter gun control.
But critics claim that the amount of attention these students have received has blocked out other important voices in the conversation.
Kyle Kashuv, a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fla., has met with the president and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. But he says he has not been given the platform and opportunities that his classmates with more liberal views on gun laws have, possibly because of his political views.
Kashuv told Townhall.com, a conservative media outlet, that maybe he hasn't attracted the attention that other student activist have “because I don't use inflammatory language. I speak calmly and logically without much emotion. I don't necessarily make the very best headline.” The Parkland student has been critical of his classmates on social media and has criticized the media for being “incredibly biased.”
Conservative radio host Ben Shapiro told Fox News that conservative students have contacted him expressing their frustration with being silenced during National Walk Out Day, a nationwide protest of students from thousands of high schools against gun violence.
But other youths involved in the fight against gun violence, not just conservatives, have also noted that they haven't gotten as much attention as the Parkland students.
Some students who don't attend schools like the one in the affluent, predominantly white, suburban community of Parkland said they have been ignored.
Zion Kelly, 17, whose brother, Zaire Kelly, died during an armed robbery last fall, told The Post: “This is happening over and over again. Dozens of students have been shot and killed — more than in Florida — and we’re not getting the same attention.”
Zion attends Thurgood Marshall Academy, a charter school in Southeast Washington.
The Parkland students aren't even the first young people from Florida to ask politicians to get involved in the gun violence debate.
In 2013, the Dream Defenders occupied the Florida governor’s office to draw attention to the “stand your ground” law that ultimately protected George Zimmerman from being convicted in the killing of Trayvon Martin.
After that, the Million Hoodies Movement launched chapters across the country mobilizing young people and advocating for an end to racism and violence. And several years later, youths filled the streets of Ferguson, Mo., to voice their concerns about police killings after 18-year-old Michael Brown, an African American, was shot by a white officer.
Robyn Lingo, executive director at Mikva Challenge DC, a civic engagement group that is helping kids in urban schools mobilize against gun violence and organize for the walkout, told The Post:
“Gun violence and shooter drills may be new to kids in suburban schools, but for a lot of kids, this has been life as they know it.”
The conversation about gun violence is not likely to stop anytime soon. Liberal students are a constant reminder to lawmakers that they will soon be old enough to vote for politicians who support their views. But so will the voices who feel suppressed. And if they don't believe their concerns will be heard by political leaders and media outlets interested in their approach to gun policy, they will support politicians and journalism that do.