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Last month, 17 people were shot and killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida when a gunman with an AR-15 opened fire. More than a dozen people were injured.
As students, you already know more about mass gun violence than anybody should. You have practiced mass shooter drills and you have lived life under threat as if this is how life in America is supposed to be.
The Parkland shooting was the ninth deadliest mass shooting in modern day American history. Think about that. A shooting that took the lives of 17 people ranks ninth. Less than six months ago, 58 people were killed at a music festival in Las Vegas; 422 were injured. Less than five months ago, 26 people were killed at a church in Texas. According to the New York Times, more than 438 students and teachers have been shot in at least 239 school shootings since Sandy Hook in 2012.
Every time there’s a mass shooting, we go through the same cycle. A horrific shooting. Thoughts and prayers. Calls for action that fade away. We forget. Another horrific shooting. The same gun. The same cycle.
The truth is it doesn’t have to be this way.
This time feels different. People are waking up because students like you have taken bold and direct action. You have reminded us that because this issue impacts you more than anyone, your voice should matter as much as anyone’s. You have not let us get away with thoughts and prayers alone. You will no longer be silent as your peers die and the adults elected to protect you do nothing. You are standing up for what you believe in and holding adults accountable.
My daughter was in kindergarten the same year as the shooting at Sandy Hook. Now that she is 11, she will be looking to you as leaders and role models. It is you, students, who are leading the way to real national change. I applaud you.
I want you to know that you have my full support as you participate in the March 14 School Walkout to End Gun Violence and the March 24 March for Our Lives.
Tomorrow, one month to the day after the Parkland shootings, I will recess our City Council meeting for 17 minutes in support of your efforts, one minute for each life lost in Florida.
Don’t listen to people who tell you you’re too young, who tell you that you don’t understand, who tell you won’t get into college if you protest. Universities around the country, including Portland State University, have explicitly said any disciplinary action resulting from your activism will not affect your chances of admission.
This is your time. Young people have read the headline “deadliest mass shooting in history” too many times. We’ve experienced shootings in Oregon. We’ve seen how close to home this can be.
In 2012, a gunman opened fire at Clackamas Town Center, killing two people and seriously injuring a 15-year-old girl. In 2014, a 14-year-old Reynolds High School student was shot and killed by a student with an AR-15 he brought in a guitar case on a school bus. And in 2015, an Umpqua Community College student killed eight classmates and his professor, wounding nine others.
I support common-sense gun safety legislation, which reduces gun violence and save lives. I support the termination of gun sales to anyone under 21 years of age. I support renewing the ban on assault-style rifle sales.
I support you as you make your voices heard. I also appreciate your teachers, administrators and parents, who have worked with you to create a safe and responsible location to hold your demonstration. This is an important, teachable moment for all of us.
You inspire me.
Mayor Ted Wheeler