VIDEO - Why walkout, march matter. Rally is Saturday.
Emma Zimmerman, 15, is sick of it.
Avery Jones, 17, is fed up too.
Both teens don’t want to see another student or teacher’s life cut short by gun violence.
So they’re going to Washington, D.C. to make their voices heard in the March For Our Lives protest for action on gun control Saturday.
March For Our Lives is organized by students across the country. Local marches are tentatively planned in Wilmington and Rehoboth Beach.
The mission is to demand that a comprehensive and effective bill be immediately brought before Congress to address gun safety.
“I just look at the news and see all these innocent lives being taken due to gun violence. This just needs to come to an end,” said Zimmerman, a freshman at Dover High School. “How many shootings are going to need to happen before we do something about this?”
There have been 25 school shootings since the Columbine High School massacre April 20, 1999, according to FOX News. This includes Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 26 victims were killed in Connecticut in 2012.
After the school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people were killed Feb. 14, students began to take action.
On Feb. 21, thousands of Florida high school students protested in Washington urging lawmakers to stop the sale of assault rifles.
On March 9, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed Senate Bill 7026, known as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, which raises the minimum age to buy certain firearms from 18 to 21 and imposes a three-day waiting period for most sales of long guns.
Jones, a William Penn High School senior, said the Florida student protesters have encouraged her to follow in their footsteps this weekend.
“I shouldn’t have to wait around for something to happen to my community to make my voice heard,” said Jones, who will go to the D.C. protest with Charter School of Wilmington student Zainab Badru.
Adults ‘had their chance’
Jones said she’s been opinionated about gun control since she was 12, the year of the Sandy Hook shooting. With regard to the trend of school shootings, she said, “I’m just tired of it.”
She said a number of adults look down on teens, doubting their ability to make informed opinions about gun control. But at the end of the day, the 17-year-old said adults have failed to curb school shootings.
“I think that adults have kind of had their chance,” Jones said. “It’s been almost 20 years now and they haven’t really done anything. So I think if they haven’t done anything, then we will.”
Zimmerman agreed that some adults have been dismissive toward her and her peers’ views on gun reform.
“When an adult comes to me and says, ‘You don’t really understand what’s going on,’ I do, because I watch the news and know what’s happening,” Zimmerman said. “I know how to process information too.”
The Dover High freshman doesn’t feel secure in school.
“I don’t really feel safe at all. At Dover High School the teachers have been required to go over safety procedures in case of a school shooting,” Zimmerman said. “I don’t think we should have to do that. I think we should be able to go to school and not be afraid.”
Zimmerman said she doesn’t know why Congress has been dragging its feet on the topic of gun control, compared to lawmakers in Australia.
“In Australia in 1999 there was a school shooting,” Zimmerman said. “Then they enforced gun control in their country and they haven’t had a mass shooting since then.”
Guns in class
After the Parkland shooting, President Donald Trump endorsed the idea that teachers should be armed.
Azaria Lewis, president of Dover High’s Class of 2020, doesn’t think that’s a good idea.
“You could have that one teacher who just gets annoyed with their class and decides to threaten the students with their weapon,” the sophomore said. “It’s just not practical for them to have weapons in their classroom. It just promotes more fear.”
Fellow sophomore Charles Anyanwu Jr., a photographer for the Senator newspaper, agrees with Lewis.
“That’s why we implemented security officers in our school. Why do teachers need to do the job that the officers are trained to do?” Anyanwu said.
The risk of protesting
Some fear the march in Washington may jeopardize the safety of protesters.
Similar concerns were expressed when students across the country took part in the student-led National School Walkout March 14. Students walked out of class at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes, to honor the 17 Parkland victims and call to support gun legislation.
William Penn senior Jones said it’s risky to protest in D.C. this weekend.
“With any kind of protest, you’re essentially putting yourself at risk,” she said. “But you can’t live your life afraid. If you want to change something, you have to actually stand up and do something about it instead of just tweeting.”
Dover High freshman Zimmerman said her mom is driving her to the march. Her mom has warned her they have to be on high alert.
“My mom said when we go to March For Our Lives, we need to be very careful,” she said. “But until we enforce gun control, anything can happen.”
Azsaleigh Voshell, a Dover High junior, said students should have the freedom to protest, even if it’s not safe.
“Saying it’s a bad idea is taking away our First Amendment. We have the right to protest and talk and say what we want to,” said Voshell, who was in her school’s walkout, but won’t make it to the Saturday march.
Fired up for change
Appoquinimink High School senior Sophia Angeletakis said she’ll be marching in D.C., with five friends, and she plans to put pressure on lawmakers.
“I want to be part of a group that’s just as enthusiastic as I am about the gun control topic,” she said.
Smyrna High School senior Kalle Minner won’t be able to go at all, because she has to work. But she’ll be there in spirit.
“During my breaks, I will be checking all media coverages on the marches and I am excited to see what my fellow peers can do,” she said. “We need to make change in this world. We are the generation to do so.”