SEATTLE — High school students on Saturday led thousands of protesters in Seattle and other Northwest cities demanding tighter gun regulations following recent deadly school shootings.
Students in Seattle held signs that read “Not One More” and chanted “Right now, Right here, we refuse to live in fear.” Teachers protested President Donald Trump’s proposal to arm some of them to protect students from potential attackers.
In Salem, Oregon, nearly 2,400 people gathered to march to the state’s Capitol. South Salem High School student Allison Hmura, 16, told the crowd: “There cannot be two sides to our safety in school where we should be learning, growing and making friends — not learning how to duck and cover.”
Thousands more also gathered in Portland to march, including Democratic U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici. And thousands in Boise, Idaho marched through downtown to the Statehouse bearing signs with slogans like “Education without Annihilation” and chanting, “enough is enough.
The marches were part of a nation-wide effort started by student survivors of February’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, which left 17 students and staffers dead. Since then, Washington state has passed legislation banning bump stocks, which increase the firing rate of semi-automatic weapons.
In addition to demanding tighter gun laws, organizers in Seattle held on-site voter registration. Last week, Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law a measure that allows voter pre-registration to start at age 16.
“We never say register to vote; we always say let’s talk about the guns,” said Emilia Allard, an 18-year-old senior at Ballard High School, and one of the march’s organizers. “You can talk about the guns all day long, but we’re not elected officials. I can’t walk in and make that change. But if we’re electing people that can best represent us, then we can make that change.”
Inslee, who spoke to a cheering crowd yards from the Space Needle, reiterated his support for more restrictions on guns. He said he would be in favor of enhanced background checks, raising the age limit for ownership, and banning assault weapons. He was joined on stage by Democratic state Sen. David Frockt, whose bill raising the minimum age to buy assault rifles to 21 at this year’s legislative session failed to get a floor vote. Democrats control both chambers of the Legislature.
“I don’t think this issue is going to go away,” Frockt said. “Gun violence is a daily thing that we have to deal with in this country. We’re not going to prevent every instance of violence, but we ought to do what we can do.”
Throughout the event, students and teachers shared their experiences with gun threats at their respective schools. Maya Chavez, a 16-year-old sophomore at Garfield High School, said her school locks all doors as a security measure due to frequent threats. In one instance this year, a student was expelled after making threats on social media to shoot others at the school, she said.
Much of the protest was directed at the National Rifle Association, which opposes tighter gun regulation, and its political allies.
Naa’Rai Tilson, a 19-year-old student at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, chanted “vote them out” with others as he marched.
“I’m talking about the NRA. I’m talking about Trump. I’m talking about all the people who allow kids to get hurt at the hands of profit,” Tilson said. “I know that there are things in our culture, The Second Amendment, that people won’t let go of. But we can hold on to our traditions without having to lose lives.”