Lane Murdock, 15, considers herself a first-time activist, but it seems she's always had a revolutionary spirit.
"When I was younger, I would often write up very small petitions at my school for things I honestly can't even tell you what they were for but I just remember going around the playground and having people sign them," the sophomore at Ridgefield High School in Connecticut told Refinery29 Wednesday in Brooklyn's Prospect Park, where she was a speaker at a rally for gun safety.
Thousands of teens walked out of classes that day, which marked the one-month anniversary since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, which left 17 students and faculty dead.
Lane is the teen behind the National School Walkout, a nationwide protest on April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre. Unlike the 17-minute walkout on March 14, the April 20 event will last all day and there will be speakers, activities, and voter registration. Before that, thousands of people are slated to participate in the March for Our Lives on March 24 in Washington, D.C., and around the country.
I think when you take that education, plus you take empowerment, kids who believe in themselves plus social media, you add all that together and you've got very smart people with very smart tools.
Her frustration with how quickly our nation seems to move on after mass shootings led her to start a Change.org petition, which as of now has more than 250,000 signatures. Change.org has been helping her coordinate her activist outreach. "I thought a lot about how students have no power, no voice, even though when shooters go into schools, we're the ones who are getting killed. So even though we can't vote, we still have a place in this discussion," she told Refinery29. "I thought about what power we do have and that is our participation in school, that is our actual physical bodies in school if we could walk out, if we could take that small amount of power we do have and let it be known that we weren't going to stand for this anymore. I thought it could be really powerful. So far, it's shown me that I was right," said Lane, who lives in a town just 20 minutes away from Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Though she was very young at the time of the Sandy Hook shooting, Lane said the incident had an impact on her. "I can't remember a lot from that age, but I do remember the specific moment of seeing my mom crying on the couch, I mean it definitely made an imprint on me," she said. "Not a lot has changed since Sandy Hook, and that's actually why I chose the Columbine date — because not a lot has changed since Columbine."
Beyond using social media to bring attention to her cause, Lane said she's arming herself with knowledge of gun policy. "So most of my time, other than tweeting and getting the word out, is educating myself because I'm 15," she said. "I think we're a highly educated generation. I think when you take that education, plus you take empowerment, kids who believe in themselves plus social media, you add all that together and you've got very smart people with very smart tools. And I think that's why we've been able to equip ourselves, because we have the whole world at our fingertips."
Lane, much like the Parkland student activists, is very aware of her privilege, and plans to use it to ensure marginalised groups have their voices heard in this national gun control debate. "You look at other movements by people of colour in the early 2000s and the 2010s, and you see how quickly the media turned against them, and now you look at how quickly media has been positive towards us," Lane said. "That's why for me and my team, we're planning on doing a lot more outreach to people of colour organisations that have been fighting this fight for a long time, because they deserve the credit for their work."
As for what's next, Lane recognises the fight for gun safety is just getting started. "My work does not end after April 20th," she said. "We have a lot more things in store.
"I don't exactly know where I'll be in 10 years, but I know I'm not one for settling, so I will not disappear back into, quote-unquote, normal life. I definitely want to do something that's important and something that has a purpose."
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