Students set to walk out, rally, visit gun-maker
Coinciding with a "national school walkout" organized by an arm of the group that led the January 2017 women's marches, high school students plan to leave their classrooms at 10 a.m.. Some students plan to then call for action at the Statehouse, while high schoolers from some of Massachusetts' largest cities plan to use the day to call attention to the gun violence that affects their communities.
Students from Boston, Worcester, Springfield and Holyoke are expected to rally for an hour outside the Springfield headquarters of Smith & Wesson to demand a meeting with its chief executive to discuss how the manufacturer can "help reduce gun violence."
The students also want to make sure that the gun violence issues they say are unique to their communities are part of the debate around gun laws.
"Students are working hard to center what young people in cities across Massachusetts would like to see, and what they want looks different from what the students in Parkland may want," said Tara Parrish, the director of the Pioneer Valley Project who is organizing the rally. "It's a different angle when you talk about cities and cities without a lot of resources."
Parrish used Springfield as an example; she said schools there might be the safest place a student visits that day. She and other organizers said some Springfield schools already use metal detectors and that there is no desire in communities like Springfield for teachers to be armed.
"Any real solutions to address gun violence must include acknowledgement of the unique characteristics and needs of urban communities. There's a widespread call for gun control reforms that again and again focus on the needs of suburban communities, while making those of us in cities invisible," the Rev. David Lewis Sr. from Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Springfield, said in a statement. "Students in Springfield and in many urban communities across the country don't agree with current calls for metal detectors and arming teachers. Here, schools are among the safest places in Springfield for young people, a city with three of the poorest zip codes in Massachusetts and nine of the state's poorest schools."
While some high school students rally in Springfield, others plan to take part in a school walkout before heading to the Statehouse to meet with lawmakers on Beacon Hill.
Charlotte Lowell, a senior at Andover High School who is organizing the walkouts and Statehouse rally, said more than 50 schools have reached out to get more information about the plan.
After a brief rally on the Statehouse steps at 12:15 p.m., the students plan a 1 p.m. speaking program in Gardner Auditorium before visiting with legislators until 3:30 p.m. She said the students will meet with lawmakers to talk about bills (H 3081, H 3610) filed by Reps. David Linsky and Marjorie Decker, which would each establish "extreme risk protective orders" through which courts could prohibit a person from owning a gun for one year in certain circumstances, including threats of violence.
Lowell said the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland forced high school students to think more seriously about gun violence and to add their voices to the national debate over gun laws and school safety.
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