VHS Students Plan Walkout Against Gun Violence

By on March 7, 2018

enough buttonsNext Wednesday, March 14, will be the one-month anniversary of the mass shooting that killed 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and injured 16 more. On that day, a group of Verona High School students will lead their classmates in walkout to honor the victims and rally student support against gun violence.

Natalie Romanyshyn, Daphne Glatter, Karen Andre, Anna Konrad-Parisi, Chloe Mathewson–some of the organizers of VHS version of the #Enough National School Walkout–are too young to vote yet. They won’t even be old enough to vote in this year’s midterm elections. But because of what happened in Parkland, they feel themselves old enough now to have a discussion about common-sense gun reforms. So, in person and online, they’ve been talking to other VHS students about the need for stricter background checks on gun buyers and responsible gun ownership.

“My relatives in upstate New York are hunters,” says Mathewson. “But they know the difference between having a gun that can kill one deer and a weapon that can kill many people.”

They haven’t all been easy discussions. “Some people think we’re trying to ban all weapons, but that’s not true,” says Andre, a freshman at VHS. In her conversations, she notes that many military veterans have come out in favor of stricter gun laws.

Andre, and some of the other organizers, know the Verona family who moved to Parkland a few years ago. The family’s daughter was in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on the day of the attack and lost friends in it. But they stress that their concerns about guns go way beyond any personal connection. Many have spent the last few weeks gathering facts about gun ownership and gun violence, and perspective on gun laws, in America and abroad, from a variety of partisan and non-partisan perspectives, all of which they store on their smartphones for easy reference.

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When her fellow students raises objections to gun reforms because of the Second Amendment to the Constitution or because they think guns are needed for self-defense, or because diseases kill people too, Konrad-Parisi goes through the statistics on gun usage in self-defense, homicides and suicides. They have encountered students who will walk out for school safety but not for gun control. “Security is good,” Konrad-Parisi says, “but this is for gun reform.”

She and the other #Enough walk organizers have discovered how hard it can be to counter dubious assertions made by other students because of the 1996 NRA-backed bill that prevents the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from conducting research on gun violence, but they keep trying.

“With the very partisan political atmosphere, most people are glued to their own perspective,” says Glatter. “Even if you don’t support the other side you have to be able to look at it.”

Because of reports that the Parkland shooter may have been ostracized at his school, the VHS students are also paying increased attention to bullying at VHS and the difficulties that some students can face when they seek help for mental health issues. “People don’t realize the help we have in school,” says Andre. “We’re not educating people that they can get help in school.” And when the walk is over, the organizers plan to organize voter registration among students, too.

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To support the walk, the students are selling #Enough buttons and baked goods in school, with proceeds to go to advocates of gun reform, like Moms Demand Action. They have been told by the school administration that they may proceed with the walkout as long as it is done in an orderly fashion. So the walkout, which has drawn interest so far from more than 100 students, will take place entirely on school grounds. It will be largely silent, except for the reading of the names of each of the Parkland victims.

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