Protesters want gun control after 17 students and teachers were killed by a gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Picture: AFP / Rhona Wise.
Protesters want gun control after 17 students and teachers were killed by a gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Picture: AFP / Rhona Wise.

OPINION: Students are giving me fresh hope for gun control

I WAS watching television late one night when the Sandy Hook massacre began to unfold.

When the magnitude of the tragedy became clear, it was impossible not to have a sense of the devastation that community must have been feeling.

Twenty small children and six staff members, brutally murdered by one man with a gun.

In the weeks and months that followed, as it became clear that no meaningful gun control reforms would be enacted, I became very cynical about gun control in the United States.

I'll admit I wanted to harden my heart, because watching people suffer after such preventable tragedies made me angry and sad.

It left me with a huge sense of frustration.

I had no hope that America would do anything to change the situation.

The rights of gun owners and the NRA seemed to mean more than the rights of small children to go to school and not get gunned down.

But the shooting at Pulse nightclub that left dozens dead and the murder of those at a concert in Las Vegas still hurt my heart.

I couldn't help but shed tears when the mother of Orlando shooting victim Eddie Justice shared her search for her son, including his last text messages telling her there was a shooting at the club and telling his mum how much he loved her.

He died in the bathroom, where he had been trying to hide from the gunman.

Still, America seemed content to absorb these needless deaths - and dozens of others that did not make as many headlines - unwilling to do anything that might restrict the Second Amendment.

That was until the Valentine's Day shooting at a Florida high school a little more than a week ago.

Just like all the other tragedies, this one might have been quickly forgotten in the 24 hour news cycle, where it seems there are short-lived calls for change followed by devastating inaction.

But the students at this high school have taken matters into their own hands and they are fighting for change.

They are fighting in the face of far right, people like Dinesh D'Souza who commented on an article showing Florida students in tears after lawmakers voted down a bill to ban assault weapons.

"Worst new since their parents told them to get summer jobs," he commented.

Others have suggested these children are pawns of the left or paid actors.

This kind of flippancy from the right in the face of what these teenagers have been through is unacceptable.

In the days since their classmates and teachers were gunned down, these students have organised a march, protested at the capital and met with the president.

They are making their feelings known and honestly I'm in awe of them.

I used to believe that if the deaths of small children at Sandy Hook couldn't change anything, then nothing would.

If the United States could stomach that, it could stomach anything.

But these students are giving me fresh hope - the hope of a future where children don't have to fear the threat of gun violence and people can go to a concert or a nightclub without concern that it might be the final thing they ever do.

I understand how useless "thought and prayers" can seem in these situations.

But I am thinking of these students and praying that this time there will be real change.