Former U.S. President Barack Obama insists that the Parkland students pushing to reform U.S. gun laws have the power to make change happen.
In a piece published by TIME, Obama praised Parkland student activists Cameraobn Kasky, Jaclyn Corin, David Hogg, Emma Gonzalez and Alex Wind for their drive to strengthen gun control laws following a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February. He says the students are helping to change the minds of Americans in ways that previous forms of activism could not.
"But by bearing witness to carnage, by asking tough questions and demanding real answers, the Parkland students are shaking us out of our complacency," he wrote.
Following the February shooting, the students have had "some success persuading statehouses and some of the biggest gun retailers to change," he wrote. Public opinion has also been steadily shifting.
Walmart and Dick's Sporting Goods responded to the shooting. Walmart opted to stop selling assault-style rifles in 2015, but raised its age restriction for firearm and ammunition purchases and stopped selling toys resembling assault-style rifles after the shooting in Parkland. Dick's Sporting Goods decided to stop selling the weapons immediately after the massacre and opted to destroy the merchandise it had on the shelves instead of returning it to gun manufacturers.
A 2018 Harvard poll shows that 70 percent of young Americans likely to vote in the upcoming midterms support stricter gun control laws. This statistic represents a 15-point increase from polling conducted months after the Sandy Hook school shooting that killed 20 children between the ages of six and seven.
Obama says that "progress will be slow and frustrating," but he places a lot of faith in the students' work.
Referencing the evidence of changes in voters' views on gun laws, large-scale boycotts of assault rifles, protests like the March for Our Lives and fear from the NRA, he writes that the younger generation has "the power to insist that America can be better" and "the possibilities of meaningful change will steadily grow."