In early August, killings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, hit the United States in less than 24 hours. In the hope of shocking public opinion and thus changing the law, students want the photo of their body to be released if they die in a shootout.
Kaylee Tyner was not born when the killings at Columbine High School, Colorado, took place on April 1999. But the teenager went to school and told the Huffington Post her constant anxiety about living a similar tragedy someday: “Some days, I only thought about it, especially when the shooting had taken place in another city, or when I saw people taking the school picture as if it were a tourist attraction.” The mass shootings are a scourge that the United States does not get rid of. In August 2019, killings in El Paso (Texas) and Dayton (Ohio) killed 31 people in less than 24 hours.
In the face of government inaction, a month before the 20th anniversary of the shooting of Columbine, which killed 13 people, the students of this same school mobilized and created the project “#MyLastShot” (My Last Photo, ed). On March 27, 2019, students and activists launched this campaign to prevent gun violence. They call on citizens to affix a signed sticker to their identity card, cellphone or driver’s license, which reads, “If I die from gun violence, publish the photo of my corpse.”
“Images can provoke change and ignite people,” says Kaylee Tyner, who has become a fierce gun control activist after watching videos of the Parkland, Florida shootout. The logo, a target, is a reminder of the reality of this country that has not changed its position on gun control for decades. According to the Mass Shooting Tracker (MST), 348 people were killed and 1162 wounded in 297 mass shootings (defined as at least four injured or shot dead) since the beginning of 2019.
A political awakening attempt
If Emmett Till’s cliché of body could have prompted the birth of the Civil Rights Movement, that of Kim Phuc, “the girl with Napalm”, the end of the Vietnam War and the picture of the little Alan Kurdi, empathy of the international community in the face of the refugee crisis, why not theirs? Emmy Adams, 19, one of the founders of the movement, explains the MyLastShot approach on the Huffington Post website: “Young Americans are dying because of the inaction of their leaders. If they are not able to face reality, we will show it to them, “she said.
In April 2019, MyLastShot claims to have sent nearly 10,000 stickers to students and activists across the country. The campaign was immediately viral. Some elected officials, such as Senator Julie Gonzales (Democrat), even referred to #MyLastShot in a speech before voting “yes” to the Colorado Extreme Presence Protection Bill, passed in the Senate.
While some media have applauded the initiative and the stance of these students, others have been more suspicious. Although the media will have access to post-mortem photos of these activists, their use seems tricky, even forbidden, and policies on the use of cadaver images are not the same across countries.
In 2017, during the London attacks claimed by the Islamic State, while Reuters published the bloody cliché of one of the victims, France, was more on restraint. In any case, a media outlet that chooses to broadcast photographs on which the wounded are identifiable and who have not given their consent is liable to prosecution. In France, article 225-17 of the Penal Code penalizes any attack on the integrity of a body, by any means whatsoever. The diffusion of a degrading image can be part of it. The penalty can be up to one-year imprisonment and 15,000 euros fine.