RIGHT NOW: Hundreds of students protest gun violence in front of the White House, as part of nationwide walkout. pic.twitter.com/vhKGxcjiq8— Peter Alexander (@PeterAlexander) March 14, 2018
Students deserve to be commended for walking out of their classrooms in schools across the country today. They are exercising their civil rights and urging lawmakers to take necessary and swift action on gun reform.
On the one-month anniversary of a deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, young people at nearly 3,000 schools stepped out of their schools at precisely 10 a.m. in their respective time zones. They returned to class 17 minutes later in recognition of the number of people who died during that terrible shooting.
Some school districts across the country vowed to discipline students for taking time to exercise their First Amendment rights. Bentonville Schools, in Bentonville, Arkansas, tweeted out earlier this week its intention to list any student who misses class time absent, and to assign them detention, if they participated. Their threat, however, seemed to have had the opposite effect, as more students pledged to walk out.
While some students have been cautioned against marching in support of gun reform, worried that their permanent records would reflect an unexcused absence or other disciplinary action, colleges and universities across the nation have made assurances to these students that their political right to protest won’t reflect negatively if they apply to study within their programs.
“Yale will NOT be rescinding anyone’s admission decision for participating in peaceful walkouts for this or other causes, regardless of any high school’s disciplinary policy,” a blog post from Yale University read, for instance.
Students across America came out in force, urging lawmakers to take serious action in favor of strengthening gun laws. Several students used their artistic skills and created signs for the event as well.
On #NationalWalkoutDay, students across the U.S. are protesting gun violence. Here are some signs students at New York City's Convent of the Sacred Heart created #tictocnews pic.twitter.com/RsGzS1pxTB— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) March 14, 2018
Some scenes from walkout that just happened in North Lawndale at CCA Academy, an alternative HS. Students briefly blocked traffic & held signs representing family & friends who’d been killed by gun violence. They demanded an end to school closings & more investments in community pic.twitter.com/TCZJ1WtFey— Kalyn Belsha (@kalynbelsha) March 14, 2018
It’s unclear what action will be taken by politicians in Washington D.C. or in states across the country. Gov. Rick Scott (R-Florida) did sign a bill into law last week that raised the minimum age for buying guns from 18 to 21, but student activists (as well as their adult supporters) want more — including requiring every gun purchase be subjected to a background check and banning assault weapons like the AR-15, which is frequently used in mass shooting events across the country.
Unfortunately, President Donald Trump has already balked from some promises on proposed laws he made in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting. Other lawmakers in Congress refuse to act on those issues as well, meaning that real gun reforms to prevent tragedies probably won’t be enacted anytime soon.
Those lawmakers should probably consider changing their minds or begin counting the days until they’re out of office — especially since many of those participating in protests on Wednesday are, or soon will be, casting their first votes ever during this fall’s midterm elections.