Student protestors arrive on Capitol Hill shouting “Do your job Congress!” pic.twitter.com/0ItMmQbL3B
— Ryan Nobles (@ryanobles) April 20, 2018
For the second time in two months, thousands of students from across the country are streaming out of class Friday as part of a National School Walkout to demand action on gun reform — even as Florida police investigate a fresh shooting that injured a student Friday morning.
Students are walking out of class at 10 a.m. in each time zone to observe a moment of silence for shooting victims.
Before Friday’s walkouts began, the latest school shooting happened in Ocala, Florida, some 65 miles northwest of Orlando. Police said a student was shot in the ankle at Ocala’s Forest High School, and a suspect is in custody.
Friday’s walkouts, while drawing momentum from February’s mass shooting at South Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, also marks the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Colorado in which two gunmen killed 12 students and a teacher.
Many students across the country — including current Columbine students — say not enough has been done to help prevent mass shootings.
Besides observing moments of silence, other actions during the day will include marching to a local lawmaker’s office, allowing open-mic time for students to share concerns and helping register those who are eligible to vote. Students at more than 2,500 schools were set to participate.
In Washington’s Lafayette Square across from the White House, high school students gathered well before 10 a.m.
One of those demonstrators, Hiam Baidas of Falls Church, Virginia, said the country needs laws making it more difficult to buy guns.
“Right now I’m 18 years old, I live right across the street from Walmart, and I can go buy a gun — and I don’t think that’s OK,” she said.
“I think the youth are the movement that is going to change and better our country.”
Teachers, too, are marking the day. At Stoneman Douglas High, where a gunman massacred 17 people two months ago in Parkland, Florida, teachers got an early start, demonstrating outside the building before classes began.
Those teachers combined calls against gun violence with requests for more school funding.
“Enough is enough!” they chanted, holding signs with messages such as “Children’s lives > assault rifles,” “Arm me with school funding” and “Arm me with better pay and lower class size.”
But Stoneman Douglas students themselves may not see the same kind of leniency they saw when students walked out of class across the country on March 14.
Principal Ty Thompson told the students during Thursday’s announcements that if they leave campus they will face disciplinary action. Several teachers told CNN that the disciplinary action will be an unexcused absence.
Students there still walked out just after 10, but some said they were planning to do acts of service on campus instead.
Students protesting in front of the White House are wearing price tags to mock the donations politicians receive from gun rights groups. pic.twitter.com/13he2mIxjM
— Ryan Nobles (@ryanobles) April 20, 2018
Lane Murdock, 16, a sophomore from Ridgefield, Connecticut, launched the National School Walkout.
She was disturbed by her own reaction — or lack thereof — to the February massacre in Florida.
“When I found out about the shooting at MSD, I remember I didn’t have a huge reaction. And because of that, I knew I needed to change myself, and we needed to change this country,” Lane said.
“We should be horrified, and we’re not anymore. It’s American culture.”
Lane said students should be empowered “to do the walkouts and become leaders in their communities, speaking up when they see inaction.”
Push for legislation
The movement also encourages young people to push for legislation at the state level if Congress doesn’t act.
“The federal government can set standards and practices that apply to all states around gun safety. But states have the option of passing additional measures to protect their own residents from gun violence,” its website says.
Students are calling for several measures, including banning assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and bump stocks; mandating universal background checks; placing a minimum age of 21 on all gun purchases; implementing waiting periods between a gun purchase and gun transfers; and allowing families to petition a court to remove guns from individuals at risk of injuring themselves.
While there hasn’t been major congressional action since the Parkland massacre, some cities and states have toughened gun control.
In Florida, after Parkland students rallied at the state Capitol, Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed a gun bill called the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. It raises the minimum age to buy any firearm in the state to 21, bans the sale or possession of bump fire stocks and adds $69 million in funding for mental health services in schools.
In Vermont, Republican Gov. Phil Scott banned bump stocks, limited the size of magazines, expanded background checks for gun purchases and raised the minimum age to purchase firearms to 21.
19 minutes of silence currently underway here in Lafayette Park outside the White House as students walk out to protest gun violence on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine HS massacre pic.twitter.com/NUkFjUfIzt
— Betsy Klein (@betsy_klein) April 20, 2018