These Chicago Teens Experienced Gun Violence Differently Than The Parkland Survivors, But That Didn’t Stop The Two Groups From Coming Together

"Why are our kids doing something that our leaders should be doing?"

Since the deadly Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, many of the survivors have been vocal about the need for stricter gun control laws, but they aren't the only young people pushing for change. In Chicago, where CNN estimates gun violence led to 3,457 shooting victims in 2017, teens are also working hard to reduce the negative impact of guns.

With that in mind, students from St. Sabina Academy in Chicago traveled to Florida earlier this month to meet with their Parkland contemporaries, including outspoken Emma González. According to CBS Chicago, the meeting came together rather quickly thanks to some help from St. Sabina's activist priest Fr. Michael Pfleger and former Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Lamar Johnson, the youth services coordinator for BRAVE (Bold Resistance Against Violence Everywhere) at St. Sabina Academy, made the trip to Parkland with the students from the Windy City and asked, "Why are our kids doing something that our leaders should be doing?"

According to Johnson, when the two groups of students met they shared ideas and life experiences relating to gun violence. "We were just explaining the difference between how violence has affected them in Parkland versus everyday violence here," he said.

As Parkland's Emma González explained via Twitter on March 4, "'Florida's safest city' and one of the cities in America most affected by gun violence came together to share stories, ideologies, and pizza."

Though school shootings garner plenty of media attention, the "everyday violence" Johnson mentioned typically does not. Still, it's worth noting guns aren't just problematic as it relates to mass shootings, such as the one in Parkland. Everytown reports 96 Americans are killed with guns on an average day, and the Brady Campaign notes nearly two-thirds of those deaths are suicides with guns. In fact, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows suicide with a gun is the most common and by far the most deadly suicide method.

While the students from Chicago and Parkland have had different experiences with guns and gun violence, it wasn't difficult for them to find commonalities. As Johnson put it, "It really gave me hope to see these kids from high schools putting their minds together regardless of what city they're from, or experiences, to do something about this gun issue in America."

Added González, "People of color in inner-cities and everywhere have been dealing with this for a despicably long time, and the media cycles just don't cover the violence the way they did here.  The platform us Parkland Students have established is to be shared with every person, black or white, gay or straight, religious or not, who has experienced gun violence, and hand in hand, side by side, We Will Make This Change Together."

That sentiment was one that stuck with Bernice King, a daughter of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. Shortly after González shared her thoughts, King tweeted, "Courageous conversations matter and are a critical part of personal and social change."

Though the meeting between the Parkland and Chicago students was brief, the groups will join forces yet again on March 24 in Washington, D.C. for the March For Our Lives rally. At that highly-anticipated event, students and concerned Americans from all over the country are expected to take a stand against all forms of gun violence.

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