Last Wednesday, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School experienced a massacre that embedded a sense of fear nationwide. Former student Nikolas Cruz brought a semi automatic AR-15 rifle on campus and released fire on students and teachers, killing 17 people and wounding 14. Within the last five months, the U.S. has experienced three of the ten deadliest mass shootings in its entire history. The numbness society has exhibited towards mass shootings in recent years is beginning to dissipate with the overwhelming number of deaths linked to gun violence.
The abundance of death linked to the abuse of firearms has exemplified the flaws in America’s lack of gun control. Due to lackluster background checks, the regulation and distribution of guns is proving detrimental consequences in the form of costing human life. Being the eighteenth shooting this year, it seems the pattern of deaths will continue if no action is taken. Many feel responsible to prevent the normalization of shootings, so schools around the nation are participating in protests; the nationwide walkout is scheduled for March 14 at 10 a.m.
Organizers of the march intend for all students and staff to walk out for 17 minutes to symbolize the number of people killed at MSDHS. The march’s goal is to demand Congressional reform in accordance to protecting the right to obtain education in a safe and secure environment.
Expressions interviewed walkout organizer and senior Ollie Hicks and women’s rights activist Andrea Chmelik to provide San Luis Obispo High School with voices in this national conflict.
Expressions: How does this walk out represent opinions about gun laws? Do you believe it will improve these problems?
Andrea Chmelik: The walkout represents the fact that students are sick and tired of being afraid to die at school due to preventable violence, while at the same time honoring the 17 victims who were needlessly murdered. It says to Congress, and voting age people, that change must happen. Students know that for their entire lives they have been at risk coming to school due to failed policy. And now they are saying that not one more child can be lost. They want to chase the American dream of public education without fearing they will be killed doing it.
Senior Ollie Hicks: This represents people’s views because it’s the first time students have organized so well following a tragedy like this. It’s the victims of these school shootings who are teenagers fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, and eighteen year olds who are the one’s speaking out. I think that will give it a lot more momentum moving forward, hopefully making some sort of lasting change, whether it’s at the local level, state level, or national level.
Expressions: Do you know how many schools are going to participate in the walk out?
Chmelik: We have direct contact with three local high schools so far. We are here to support students who decide to take this action, but we do not point fingers at those who don’t. It’s a very personal decision, with potentially real consequences, that each student must personally weigh with the support of their families.
Hicks: There are multiple organizations that are helping to sponsor our schools walk out. As for other schools, I know New Tech and Morro Bay high school are participating in a similar protest.
Expressions: What is the most important message this walk out is representing?
Chmelik: The biggest message is that even if you can’t vote yet, you do have a voice. The future is yours for the taking. How you participate in democracy matters for your own future. And we are sorry you have to face this, but we know you are up for the fight. We are here to support you.
Hicks: That gun violence is especially prevalent in our society. It’s something that can affect anyone regardless of who you are. It doesn’t matter what your race is, what your gender is, what sexual orientation you are, or what your political views are. Anybody can be the victim of gun violence at any point because of the gun culture we have here in the States.
Expressions: Why is it important to participate in political activities like this?
Chmelik: When you take the chance to voice who you are and what you believe, if you do it in a peaceful and respectful way, you will be heard and you will accomplish your goal. Right now the world is watching America’s youth to see if you have the passion and commitment to take on the gun safety and mass shooting battle. We have every faith that you do.
Hicks: Our generation is one that is repeatedly criticized for being apathetic and disinterested in politics. This is an opportunity to not only make positive change, but also show that students around the country are a force to be reckoned with. We have ideas and visions, and are an articulate group of people that want to have a say in the society that so often tells us what to do.