As Graduates In Santa Fe And Parkland Look Ahead, A Look Back On Activism This Year Student-led demonstrations calling for an end to gun violence gained traction after the shooting at a Parkland, Fla. high school. As the year ends, here's a look at how the movement has gone.
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As Graduates In Santa Fe And Parkland Look Ahead, A Look Back On Activism This Year

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As Graduates In Santa Fe And Parkland Look Ahead, A Look Back On Activism This Year

As Graduates In Santa Fe And Parkland Look Ahead, A Look Back On Activism This Year

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And on Sunday, surviving seniors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., will get their diplomas. So now we want to take a look back on what's happened in the nearly four months since the shooting at that school, where students emerged as nationally recognized advocates for gun regulation. NPR's Brakkton Booker has the story.

BRAKKTON BOOKER, BYLINE: Parkland student Alfonso Calderon sat before lawmakers last week asking the same question he's posed since February - why has virtually nothing been done about gun violence since 17 people were killed at his school?

ALFONSO CALDERON: There's been a lot of talk, especially around here, about putting America first. I agree. Let's put America first and put the gun lobbies and the NRA second. I don't understand why this is such a difficult conversation to have.

BOOKER: Fellow Marjory Stoneman Douglas classmate Charlie Mirsky has been to Washington five times since the Parkland shooting. Yes, he's disappointed, but he's also confident student-led action is slowly swaying lawmakers.

CHARLIE MIRSKY: I mean, I've been frustrated long before anything happened. I've - I mean, I was just a professional complainer before being a professional activist. And although we're frustrated with the way things are, we feel like we can actually do something now.

BOOKER: That something means keeping the pressure on Congress. In March, federal lawmakers passed modest gun measures. But those fell well short of what gun control advocates were pushing for, like bans on assault weapons and universal background checks. A handful of states, including Washington and Florida and Vermont, have taken action on guns. But for student-led activism, the high-water mark was this.

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UNIDENTIFIED ACTIVIST: Welcome to the revolution.

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UNIDENTIFIED ACTIVIST: It is a powerful and peaceful one because it is of, by and for the young people of this country.

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BOOKER: Five weeks after the Parkland shooting, hundreds of thousands across the country took part in the March For Our Lives. Activists kept momentum up through the spring with not one, but two national school walkouts when thousands of students left their classrooms in protest of gun violence in schools. And then it happened again.

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GREG ABBOTT: We come together today as we deal with one of the most heinous attacks that we've ever seen in the history of Texas schools.

BOOKER: That's Texas Governor Greg Abbott on the day a student gunman killed 10 at Santa Fe High School. After that shooting, young people again took to social media, creating hashtags like if I die in a school shooting. And then, another kind of protest - a die-in.

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UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: We as a community are taking a stand against gun violence in America.

BOOKER: At Richard Montgomery High School in Maryland last week, 43 students took turns lying on an orange tarp as if they had been shot. Faculty members traced their body outlines with markers.

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UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: We as students are sick and tired of watching our peers be slaughtered in schools day in and day out. Something has to change.

BOOKER: And more die-ins are planned across the country. There were some at Publix grocery stores in Florida a week ago. That's because of the supermarket's financial backing of a pro-gun candidate running for governor. The chain later announced it's suspending those payments.

As summer break approaches, many are wondering what's next. One idea is a national school boycott this fall. Parents will pull their kids out of class until new federal gun laws are passed. The more pressing question is whether these small successes will lead to a big victory for these gun control activists before the November election. Brakkton Booker, NPR News.

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