On Feb. 14, USF students waited anxiously wondering if they’d hear from their loved ones that attend Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. In the wake of the Parkland massacre, students are taking matters into their own hands to prevent another senseless shooting by protesting gun violence at the March for Our Lives event on March 24.
Austin Gregory, a graduate student who majored in accounting, helped organize an event to send Florida-based alumni of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSD) to Washington for the March for Our Lives event.
Gregory said he was initially erted of the shooting because his girlfriend’s little sister and cousin are current students of MSD.
“At first when she told me, I was so sad about it, and the next day, I felt angry about how this could even happen,” Gregory said.
Gregory said it is important for not just MSD alumni to go to the event, but anybody who cares about gun law reform.
“It’s one thing to hear about the school that got shot up because they happen so often,” Gregory said. “But when it happens to you, it’s a totally different feeling.”
After a friend reached out to Gregory about organizing a bus for MSD alumni, he felt compelled to help out as much as he could.
“There are so many MSD alumni — the more of us that show up, the more we are able to be heard,” Gregory said.
Gregory said President Donald Trump is taking the first initiative by increasing the age restriction from 18 to 21 for purchasing an assault rifle, but the government still has room for improvement.
“There are so many loopholes in these laws right now when it comes to purchasing a gun, and there is a mental health aspect that still needs to be addressed,” Gregory said.
The most important regulation Gregory said needs to be changed is getting assault rifles off the streets and out of the hands of the mentally ill.
“I don’t see the personal need for anything other than a handgun. People may argue differently, but other than to protect yourself and your family, there no need have an assault weapon,” Gregory said.
Gregory said he hopes the outcome of the March for Our Lives event will prove to representatives in Congress the importance of gun control. When midterm elections come around, Gregory said he believes the results will show whether a change will happen.
“Once they see how many people are involved in this, they’ll hopefully change their perspective,” Gregory said.
The alumni bus is planned to leave Friday around 3 p.m. from Ft. Lauderdale and head to central Florida for additional stops. After the event in Washington, the bus will leave Saturday night.
“If you have an opinion on the issue, the best thing you could do is talk about it,” Gregory said. “People can post on social media, but it doesn’t have the same effect of actually showing up.”
Shelby Knobel, a sophomore majoring in environmental science, is going to the March for Our Lives event because Parkland is her hometown. Her brother and cousin go to MSD and she wanted to do as much could to prevent another tragedy.
“In 20 years, when we look back on the event, I want to know that my community and family did everything we could to make my kids in the future feel safe at school,” Knobel said.
Knobel was in her statistics class when her brother texted her and said he was leaving the school because someone was setting off fireworks in the courtyard.
“Thirty seconds later my brother texted me back and said, ‘Nevermind there is an active shooter, but I got out of the school quickly,’” Knobel said.
According to Knobel, gun control in the country is extremely weak. She believes the National Rifle Association has an overwhelming control over politicians and elected officials.
“The fact that President Trump has repealed a lot of the background check regulations is horrible,” Knobel said. “President (Ronald) Reagan put in an assault weapon ban for a reason, and the fact it has expired and has been repealed is very weak.”
Knobel said banning military grade weapons is an appropriate response, as she does not believe it is infringing on anyone’s constitutional right.
“We’re not just here because of the tragedy, aftershock wave of ‘this happen to us and now we’re angry,’” Knoel said. “We are a force to be reckoned with, and they can’t silence my community.”
Knobel commends the current students of MSD who are speaking to elected officials and is proud of their bravery.
“Cameron Kasky is one of my good friends’ best friend, and I have previously hung out with him before,” Knobel said. “Seeing him speak out now makes me proud that they are taking what they have been taught their whole life — which is to stand up for themselves.”
Knobel said she is not going to stop fighting for her beliefs until she sees active change.
“It can happen to anyone; guns don’t discriminate,” Knobel said. “My town was voted the safest town in Florida, and we had one of the deadliest shootings that have ever happened.”