Students walkout to demand stricter gun laws

Amelia Deckert and Jonathan Garcia pose for a photo after sharing words about the recent school shooting and hold a moment of silence in honor of the victims.

Paetyn Rector

Amelia Deckert and Jonathan Garcia pose for a photo after sharing words about the recent school shooting and hold a moment of silence in honor of the victims.

On March 27, another mass shooting occurred at Covenant School, a private Presbyterian Church school, in a neighborhood of Nashville, Tennessee. Following the event, Nashville police announced that the shooter was a former student of the school. This massacre is among over 130 mass shootings in the U.S. this year alone. Since the Columbine High School mass shooting in 1999, there have been roughly 400 school shootings and more than 349,000 students have experienced gun violence in one way or another. 

Following the shooting at Covenant School, Students Demand Action organized a nationwide school walkout in protest of the recent mass shooting that killed nine third graders and three staff members. Students Demand Action is a group of young activists that are committed to ending gun violence, making a change in schools, making schools safe, and overall making a change in the system. Thousands of students across the country participated and demanded change from our federal government and respective local governments. 

“We’re walking out of school because we’re fed up,” Students Demand Action shared via Instagram. “Fed up with thoughts and prayers without meaningful action.”  

Since this was organized by Students Demand Action, no one knew how to take charge at a local level. Along with the fact that it wasn’t known about until April 5, the day of. But Jonathan Garcia and Amelia Deckert, juniors, realized that there was no one there to lead the event since it wasn’t a student body-led protest. 

Students gather on the baseball field to participate in the nationwide walkout. (Paetyn Rector)

“[Deckert] came to me and she told me she wanted someone to speak up,” Garcia said. “I told her that I would talk with her.” 

The two are on the Teen Advisory Board (TAB) together and already have some public speaking skills under their belts that they were able to put to the test. 

“We have the relationship where talking publicly is already built into us,” Garcia said. “We do it well together.”

Roughly 150 students  left at noon and headed for the baseball field. There, Garcia and Deckert shared the message they’re trying to send with the crowd and held a moment of silence in commemoration for the many lives that have been lost due to gun violence. 

“We kind of talked about how it’s an epidemic that we’re dealing with,” Deckert said. “After I spoke people came up to me and we had one on one conversations about gun rights issues.” 

For Deckert, she has had some personal experience in regards to gun laws and human rights, so this was something close to heart.  

“I’ve noticed [speaking up] is kind of an issue in our schools,” Deckert said. “I think taking action is one of the best ways that you can voice your opinion and create change.” 

School walkouts are organized to demonstrate students’ disapproval with school, government, and other policies. With how common school shootings are becoming, students are afraid to go to school and parents are afraid to send their kids to school. 

“Walkouts are a peaceful protest of how kids are feeling,” Garcia said. “The change that comes from it is acknowledgment from schools and government officials that students are seriously affected by these events.” 

Doing walkouts lets school officials and those in a higher power know how much tragic events meant to them and the change that they want to create. 

“I think the more people we have taking action and just showing up shows that they care about this crisis that we’re dealing with,” Deckert said.

Voices matter a lot. You have to do something impactful to encourage substantial change.

— Jonathan Garcia

Admin decided on the baseball field as the meeting area in hopes that it would be the safest, most secure place, as protests can get violent and out of hand. Luckily, this one was under control and peaceful. 

Garcia gives credit to Deckert as she was brave enough to stand up in front of her peers and tell them how she feels and initiate the whole purpose of a walkout. 

“[Amelia] talked about the six victims and I initiated the three minutes,” Garcia said. “It was just a group effort. But [Amelia] took the lead, and that was very impressive.” 

On May 15, there will be a student-led protest against gun violence. Students will walk from the school to the corner of Burns Street and Willamette Falls Drive. There will be speeches prior to heading out and posters will be provided. Since this is organized by students in our community, it will show school officials and local government what human rights mean to them.

“Voices matter a lot,” Garcia said. “You have to do something impactful to encourage substantial change.”