Student activists walk out in support of gun control

Demi Ellenbogen, Features Editor

It’s Valentine’s Day. You wake up, throw on a red T-shirt, grab a granola bar, say bye to your mom and head out the door. The same routine as any day. At school, the day flies by. Couples exchange presents, but otherwise the day is completely normal. 2:20 – the fire alarm goes off. You laugh with your friend about how stupid it is to have a drill so late in the day. You hear gunshots. You stop laughing.

This may sound melodramatic, but this actually happened.

What started as a normal day for the Parkland, FL, community quickly became a tragedy. In seven harrowing minutes, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School became the site where 17 lives were cut short by gun violence.

A student-led organization known as Moco4Change orchestrated a walkout and march on Mar. 14 from the White House to the Capitol in protest of the federal government’s lack of action on the nation’s pressing gun violence epidemic.

The MoCo for Change Wootton representatives are senior Sophie Miller and junior Aishlinn Kivlighn.

Miller encourages others to practice their right to protest the government and fight for what they believe in. “Students are walking out of school for the second time to demand the passing of S42 and other gun reform bills. In 2018 alone, there were just under 40,000 deaths by firearms, and many of the weapons used in these murders were bought without background checks. This walkout is extremely important, as HR8, the universal background check bill, has just been passed in the house and still needs to pass the Senate,” Miller said.

Senior Ruby Brayton, a student at Blake, is the vice president of the organization. Brayton emphasizes the importance of representing and honoring the lives lost. “We’re doing this because it’s our responsibility to fight for the people who can no longer fight for themselves. As long as we are still living and breathing, we owe it to the 96 people who die every day due to gun violence,” Brayton said.

MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith supports students’ right to advocate for issues important to them, but asks them to do so in school. To avoid possible safety concerns, school administrators worked with student leaders to develop a plan, giving students the opportunity to demonstrate while being safe on campus. Smith explained that the county does not have the resources to ensure the safety of students if they choose to participate in off-campus protest, and that students were not be granted permission from the schools to do so. “If they leave school property without permission or walk out of class outside of the designated time, it will be considered an unexcused absence,” Smith said in a letter to the community.

President of Activists Club, junior Meghana Kotraiah, was one of the students who chose to attend the march. “It was a great energy of kids coming together for a cause they believe in,” Kotraiah said. “My favorite part was the speakers. They had a good variety, and they were all so moving and powerful.”