Students across the nation walked out of class yesterday demanding action on the part of lawmakers in Washington D.C., and in state capitals, to stem the tide of gun violence on school campuses across the country.
A 17-minute walkout began at 10 a.m. in each time zone across the country, a tribute to the seventeen people – most of them students – who were killed in a school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School in Parkland, FL, exactly one month ago.
Some protesters read the names of each victim while others observed moments of silence. Students at Granada Hills Charter High School in Los Angeles laid down across the entire length of a football field, spelling out “Enough,” the protest’s mantra.
Demonstrations lasted throughout the day as protesters marched down streets and held rallies in front of government buildings. In Washington D.C., crows of students gathered in front of the White House.
In Parkland, students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas rose before dawn to place hundreds of pinwheels around the campus to mark the anniversary.
Despite outcries from students, parents as well as some lawmakers, there has been no major legislative action in response to the shooting.
The White House unveiled a framework of measures aimed at reducing gun and school violence in the U.S. this week, but it did not include specific legislation. The framework consisted of a series of recommendations to Congress, as well as states, on tougher gun-control measures.
The proposals included providing firearms training for specially qualified school personnel with the help of the Department of Justice and local law enforcement, as well as calling on states to institute extreme risk protection orders, allowing authorities to remove firearms, with a court order, from individuals who are deemed to be a risk to themselves or others.
The administration also announced it was establishing a commission that will work to find the best and most workable solutions to gun violence in schools. The commission will be chaired by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
The House of Representatives yesterday, passed the STOP School Violence Act. The law provides $50 million a year in federal funding to states to address mental health issues and anonymous reporting systems for threats of violence. It also provides $25 million a year for physical fortifications like metal detectors, locks and emergency notification and response technologies for law enforcement.
The bill passed by a vote of 407-10.
Many democrats lamented the fact, however, that the bill did not include any specific gun-control measures. “This is a pretense that we are doing something…” said Congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the second ranking Democrat in the House.
The National Rifle Associate applauded the move. “This important bill will help stop school violence before it happens,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA’s lobbying arm, said. “Identifying individuals at risk for violence is a critical part of securing our schools. This bill will give communities the tools they need to stop school violence through early intervention.”
Parkland students are organizing a larger march that will take place later this month. The “March For Our Lives” rally against gun violence is scheduled for Saturday, March 24. The group applied for, and has received, a permit from city officials to host as many 500,000 in downtown Washington, D.C.