Students walk out for gun reform
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Following the momentum of the movement after the shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, several nationwide protests were organized to call for gun reform. One of which was planned for April 20, the nineteenth anniversary of Columbine.
Orchestrated by student leaders, protests took place across the country as thousands of students walked out of class at 10 a.m. Hillsborough was no exception.
An estimated 80-100 students marched out of Hillsborough, led by four students who gave speeches, and provided signs for those who wanted them. Despite a hasty planning period of about a week, the students were surprised at the turnout.
“More people showed up than we thought, and we had good speakers,” sophomore Gillian Bennett, who read a poem at the walkout, said. “It really helped keep the movement alive and going, and it helped bring more people together and potentially bring new people to the movement or at least it helped them learn a little more about it.”
Despite the better-than-expected crowd, Bennett and her fellow student activists still feel like the issue needs to be continuously addressed through protests and voting.
They plan to continue their work both locally and at a larger scale. “I want to try and start a Students Demand Action chapter in Tampa and I’m working with and going to meetings for Moms Demand Action,” Bennett said. “My friend who I mentioned before is helping me get started, and I’m working with some other people who are close with this issue to help me so I’m not doing it all by myself.”
Junior Alex Barrow, who helped organize Tampa’s March for Our Lives protest, also helped orchestrate the event. “It was significant to me because I was able to be heard and voice my opinion and I also was able to help others do the same,” he said. “The national walkout showed how many people care about this issue.”
Barrow wasn’t alone in this sentiment. Junior Michie Guzman made a last-minute decision to speak the day of the protest because she felt like it was her duty as a student. “Schools are greatly affected by shootings and having schools speak out against gun violence shows how this is affecting the youth,” she said. “It allowed young people to participate and have a voice on issues that affect them every day.”
As the cries for gun control get louder, these students agree that school is the best place to foster the movement’s growth. “I think there should be protesting at schools as well as outside, because we can’t have them all at school because it’ll disrupt learning, but we definitely do need some as the strongest message is conveyed here,” Barrow said.
“I wanted to get involved because the gun control movement is something that’s really personal to me and hits really close to home,” Bennett added. “I wanted to actually do something rather than sit by the sidelines and watch others do it for me and I figured school would be a perfect place to start.”