In the wake of the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday, which left 19 children and two adults dead, thousands of students from across the country walked out of their classrooms at 12:00 pm EST today to protest gun violence in schools.
Organized by Students Demand Action, a national organization against gun violence, more than 200 events were planned across the country for May 26, according to a representative for Students Demand Action, though the representative said that may be an undercount as students are still walking out of classrooms this afternoon. There are also a slew of protests planned for this weekend as well as walkout events planned for June 3, which is National Gun Violence Awareness Day.
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“Prior to yesterday’s shooting, there have been at least 77 incidents of gunfire on school grounds, resulting in 14 deaths and 45 injuries nationally. Six of these incidents took place in Texas,” the group wrote on its website. “We won’t accept a country where gunfire can ring out at any moment, whether it’s while grocery shopping at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, a party in San Bernardino, or graduations across the country.”
At El Camino Charter High School in Woodland Hills, California, between 400 and 500 students and staff members filtered out of their school at 9:00 am PST to conduct a walkout, chanting, “Enough is enough” and “Hey hey, ho ho, gun violence has got to go” before ending up in front of the school for about 50 minutes, says Steven Bash, an alum of El Camino who currently works there as an information technology specialist.
“We need to have change,” says Natalie Winter, a senior at El Camino and president of the school’s chapter of Students Demand Action. Winter says she has younger siblings who are “terrified” of going to school in the wake of the Uvalde shooting.
“After every single tragedy or tragic instance, it’s like, ‘We send our prayers.’ I saw a string of tweets from legislators like Kamala Harris. These people can actually make change but they are not doing anything,” she says. “We wanted to share that enough is enough.”
Like many high schoolers, Winter says she grew up with the specter of active shooter drills. “We’d be in class and they’d wiggle the door handles. They’d tell us to stay away from windows, hide under desks, protect yourself, be silent,” she says. “It’s crazy where we live in a society where we have to do those things.”
At Oregon’s Lake Ridge High School, senior Flynn Williams was one of about 200 kids to walk out. Williams says the administration there was supportive, giving them time and space to hold their protest. “We hoped to tell legislators in Oregon and across the country that gun violence is an issue that needs to be addressed now,” they say. They and other students at Lake Ridge are also planning to participate in the Wear Orange event starting June 3, to commemorate lives lost to gun violence.
The walkouts are reminiscent of similar actions such as the March for Our Lives rally after the Parkland shooting, which killed 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School in Parkland, Florida.
In the wake of uproar over the Uvalde shooting, many pundits have blamed the tragedy on numerous factors, from mental illness to violence in video games to social media. Many have also suggested boosting security measures for schools, such as adding more armed security guards or even arming teachers. Armed police were unable to stop the Uvalde shooter from entering the school, reportedly ignoring the pleas of onlookers, including parents whose children were brutally slain in the attack.
The idea of arming teachers in response to the school shooting crisis is laughable, says Amy Carter, an English and journalism teacher and the advisor to El Camino’s Students Demand Action chapter. “More security, more police officers — it doesn’t help,” she says. “It creates more violence. I would 100 percent quit if that ever happened. It will not make anyone safer.”
Meanwhile, legislators are stonewalling those who demand answers regarding adopting stricter gun control measures, with Texas senator Ted Cruz dismissing one reporter as a “propagandist” with a “political agenda” after they brought up gun control reform on Wednesday.
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