Another school shooting. Children were murdered. Lives were upended forever. "Thoughts and prayers" were mumbled from afar. Americans with differing political views lobbed haymakers at one another. We've read this story before, and we know it probably won't be the last one like it.

And yet, something feels different this time. These kids, the ones in Florida who saw their classmates ripped to shreds in front of their own eyes, seem different. Their voices are louder. Their rhetoric is sharper. Their efforts are more concerted and wider-reaching. They're the ones who aren't afraid to stand up, walk out, and stick their fingers in an adult's face and ask them: Why? Why are you not protecting us? Why must I be afraid to go to school? Why can't this be stopped?

These kids deserve answers -- and action. Going through the motions of offering meaningless platitudes won't work this time. Because politicians have failed them; lobbyists have failed them; law enforcement has failed them; parents have failed them; and I have failed them. We need to do more.

We must use our voices and our votes to ensure that schools, theaters, churches, and all public spaces are free from the personal terror of knowing that, on any given day in America, you might cross paths with a bullet.

I refuse to live in such terror. The status quo won't work. Throwing more guns at this problem won't work. Our cowardice won't pass muster any longer. And these kids know it.

Mark Powell, Bakersfield