Will the walkout work out?

On April 20, students across America out of their schools to protest gun violence. At West Linn High School, around 200 people walked out, and some drove to the state capitol to demand stricter gun laws.

Eliana Portillo, senior, and Abby Minch, junior, are part of the group that had planned the walkout. During the walkout, eight students gave speeches describing the gun control reforms they are advocating.

“Our whole goal is to put stricter gun legislation in our country and fix a lot of the loopholes that are on the federal level.” Portillo said,  “Make sure that our background checks go as far as checking their mental stability, and their criminal record, and making sure that they have the rights remaining when they want to get a gun, any kind of gun.”

Speaking to hundreds of protesters,Munya Fashu-Kanu, senior, Abby Minch, junior, Eliana Portillo, senior, educate the crowd on gun violence as part of the walkout. Photo by Philip Chan

“The boyfriend loophole” and “Charleston loophole” are some of the points of focus for the activists.

In the case of “the boyfriend loophole,” domestic abuse only prohibits married couples from owning a gun. But if it were a boyfriend abusing his girlfriend, he could still get a gun.

“That’s one of the things we are trying to change,” Minch said.

With the “Charleston loophole,” if a background check is not given within three days, that person could get a gun regardless. According to Minch, this is problematic because “anyone with a criminal background can go get a gun after waiting three days.”

So, will the walkout work?

“I do think that the walkout will work,” Todd Jones, government teacher, said. “I think that young people are waking up to the fact that they have a powerful voice. I’ve shared with my government students that in terms of sheer numbers, they have the potential to be the largest voting block in the country.”

Jones is hopeful students can make a legislative change.

“I think the key is to keep the pressure on. Because what we tend to do in this country is what I call ‘the flavor of the month.’ At any given point some issue will pop up and suddenly that becomes our focus, but then something else will come along and kind of push that thing off the front burner, and then suddenly we are focused on something else,” Jones said.  “So I think if the students are serious about what they are trying to do, they are going to have to plan for the long term.”

Driving into Salem, Oregon, students protested gun laws at the State Capitol to several legislators, including Rob Wagner. Photo by Philip Chan

What change from these walkouts can we expect in the future? Minch and Portillo want stricter background checks and fewer loopholes. Kevin Mills, principal, is looking into more security in our schools.

“There is a potential of there being some changes for next year,” Mills said, “Having more of a consistent, when you come in you check into the office, rather than just four doors that go into the building. That’s one area we are exploring. I can’t tell you definite that it’s happening, but it’s definitely a priority of conversation.”