Ohio Teens Plan Marches, Vigils To Mark Columbine Shooting Anniversary

Students at Rocky River High School outside of Cleveland return to class after a March walkout honoring the victims of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting.
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Ohio students are once again preparing to walk out of their classrooms in support of stricter gun laws.

Many of the Friday walkouts, protests and marches will mark the 19th anniversary of the Columbine school shooting, where 13 people were killed. At the time, it was the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.

Fintan Bracken, a 16-year-old junior at Mentor High School, said students there plan to march after school to Republican Congressman David Joyce’s office to ask for what Bracken calls common sense gun laws-- universal background checks and magazine restrictions among them.

“You know, we go to school every day, and we don’t know if we’re going to have to evacuate the building when the announcements come on,” Bracken said, “and I think that he should listen to our voices and understand why we need these reforms.”

Bracken said the march is also a protest against the financial support Rep. Joyce has accepted from the National Rifle Association.

“The NRA has used their money and influence in politics to block any attempts at gun reform so that the arms manufacturers can make more money,” Bracken said.

Campaign contribution records show Joyce has received $10,500 in direct campaign contributions from the NRA since 2012, but the count does not include any money that may have been contributed to political action committees supporting the candidate or his issues.

In Lakewood, students and community members plan to hold a candlelight vigil and rally at the city park Friday night to honor all victims of gun violence and call on state and national leaders to pass stricter gun laws.

“Students around our area and around the country, they don’t want to be scared every single time somebody slams a locker or the fire alarm goes off,” said Isabella Bryson, a 16-year-old junior at Lakewoor High School. “So, that’s why we’re opening up a dialogue.”

A survey from the national Pew Research Center found 57 percent of high school students are either worried or very worried there will be a mass shooting at their school.

Bryson said she has never felt unsafe in her suburban high school near Cleveland, but added most students who are interviewed after mass shootings also thought it would never happen in their school.

“It is scary because we’re not really sure if it’s going to happen, however, it kind of inspired me to act,” she said.

Bryson said that’s why she and a group of her friends decided to start a club focused on student activism. The group organized the Friday night vigil.

The events to mark the Columbine shooting, though, are the last planned in a series of nationally coordinated protests and marches following the February Parkland, Florida, shooting that resulted in the deaths of 17 students and teachers.

Bryson said she does worry support for gun control will wane amongst students—issues tend to fade from the country’s consciousness quickly, she said—but with the survivors of the Parkland shooting taking the lead, she hopes other students across the country will continue to be inspired to fight for their cause.

“I think that the students who really want to affect change here, they’re not going anywhere,” Bryson said. “We have so much at risk and we have so much to lose that there really isn’t another option.”

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