New Orleans students march for stricter gun laws


Protests take to the streets in the March for Our Lives on March 24, 2018. The march was organized by high school students to push for stricter gun laws. Photo credit: Caleb Beck

Caleb Beck

High school students, many of them yet unable to vote, vowed their message would be heard at the March for Our Lives gun control rally in downtown New Orleans.

These students and some 6,000 supporters added their grief-stricken, defiant voices to those heard at satellite marches across the country Saturday, inspired by the political activism of Majory Stoneman Douglas High School youth, where 17 students were killed last month.

Olivia Keefe, a 17-year-old from Benjamin Franklin High School, co-organized the March for Our Lives march in New Orleans and reprimanded gun lobbyists and inaction from Congress in her speech.

“When we’re talking about gun violence and the way it affects our society age means nothing, because we’re the generation being killed when you don’t advocate for gun control,” Keefe said.

Lori Strosnider, organizer for gun control advocacy group Moms Demand Action, spoke to the vocal influence of these students and their potential to galvanize policymakers before reaching voter eligibility.

“The students are the voice and momentum for change. Just because they can’t vote doesn’t mean they can’t call their Congressperson every week or every day. They’re small steps, ones that we need to take,” Strosnider said.

Reasonable gun laws including safe storage, universal background checks and age restrictions or bans on assault weapons were called for by advocates and speakers in New Orleans and nationally, as well as the move to vote politicians out of office that receive money from the National Rifle Association.

Representation, then, is what 16 year-old Benjamin Franklin co-organizer Louise Olivier is fighting for with her activism.

“These reasonable regulations should be no more offensive to gun owners than the loss of human lives they could prevent. Politicians have a duty to represent their constituents, and seventy percent of Americans support stricter gun control,” Olivier said.

Councilwoman-elect Helena Moreno said in her address that the NRA cannot oppose her legislation any longer.

“The NRA has stood up to protect criminal stalkers. They don’t care about protecting law-abiding citizens; they care about protecting gun sales,” Moreno said.

Moreno added the Louisiana legislature is working to ban bump stocks, forcing domestic abusers to relinquish their firearms, and her own policy seeks to ban assault rifles altogether.

Nationally, thousands of gun control activists are hoping that if this administration can’t bring about reasonable gun control on a federal level, their efforts will be directed towards boycotting the private sector in order to bring about dramatic change.

Olivier, O’Keefe and the youth born into the mass shooting generation don’t just want stricter control, they want an end to the paranoia of simply going to school, and they’re not campaigning quietly.

O’Keefe addressed the parents of the victims of Majory Stoneman Douglas, Sandy Hook Elementary, Columbine and every school that lost loved ones in mass shootings.

“People who tell us to be quiet in the time of mourning make the assumption that mourning could ever end. I don’t know much about this type of pain, and I’m so sorry, but I know that your mourning will never end, but that also means the time to act is now,” O’Keefe said.