Missoula City Council members signed their names to a letter Monday night beseeching students at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to continue their advocacy for solutions to gun violence in America.
“You are filling a vacuum in leadership,” said the letter, written by Ward 3 Councilwoman Gwen Jones. “Your intelligence and articulate communication are gifts to be used at this time in our history. Please do not let this opportunity pass.”
The “dynamic in America is shifting” because of your activism, the letter said.
Students at the school have captivated the nation’s attention after a lone shooter killed 17 of their classmates, teachers and coaches on Feb. 14.
In their grief, students have spoken out for tighter regulations on the sale of guns, particularly assault weapons, as well as other restrictions. They’ve appeared at national town hall meetings, before the Florida Legislature, and at rallies and marches.
This Wednesday, they’ll lead a national walkout of students calling for congressional action – not unlike the walkout that occurred in Missoula and across the country on Feb. 21.
While beginning and ending the letter by expressing their condolences for the many lives lost, Missoula City Council members hailed the Parkland, Fla., students for the strength and courage they summoned to lead a national movement so soon after the death of their friends and loved ones.
“We support your activism, your passion and your organization to move our legislators to create policy that will keep our citizens safe from such horrific acts of gun violence,” the letter read. “Your voices have brought a fresh tone to the discussion, and we believe your activism could truly change the world.”
Council members encouraged the students to “make short-term plans to push this issue,” but also long-term plans to “engage young people in our country.” A number of the Parkland students have said they plan to take their advocacy to the ballot box, encouraging young people to vote for candidates who will stand up to the National Rifle Association; a few have said they’ll run for office themselves.
“It is a responsibility we hope you embrace, both to honor yourselves as survivors and more importantly your classmates that were lost,” the letter said.
Promising their support, Missoula’s elected leaders told the students they “hope that you have the strength, courage, determination and perseverance to continue your leadership in America on gun safety.
“To effect change will take work and engagement for years to come. America’s youth and adults are listening to you. Use your forum. This is an issue that needs some nudging to tip the scales and you could be that catalyst.
“Our sense is that the dynamic in America is shifting – because of you.”
All but two of Missoula’s 12 City Council members signed the letter before or after Monday night’s meeting. Ward 6 Councilwoman Julie Merritt was absent. Ward 4 Councilman Jesse Ramos did not sign, he said, because he has a personal policy against signing letters written by someone other than himself.
“I like my communications to be in my own words,” Ramos said.
Merritt has indicated that she will sign the letter before it is mailed.