Around 10,000 people turned out for Saturday’s student-led “March For Our Lives” demonstration in downtown San Diego.
The mass murder of 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida last month has energized a new generation to act against gun violence in a way this nation has never seen before. Tired and infuriated by government inaction, meaningless thoughts and prayers and the pro-gun pushback from NRA-funded Republican politicians, more than a million youth and their supporters across the nation and around the world took to the streets on Saturday to demand an end to the slaughter and inaction.
The students gathered in San Diego unanimously called for change. They want gun control and they want it now. They are keenly aware that every passing minute means the nation is a minute closer to its next inevitable tragedy. They know that to delay is to condemn more children and teens to death. In the few short weeks since Parkland, 73 American teens have been shot to death.
Sarah Johnston Powell, who was attending the rally with her two children ages 13 and 10, was also worried by the prospect of more guns in schools. “We need to keep our country’s kids safe, so we need to change our gun laws,” said Kyla Becker, a 13-year-old student at De Portola Middle School in San Diego. Becker argued the nation needs “less guns not more” and that arming teachers — part of the preferred solution of the NRA and President Donald Trump — “would make everything so much worse.”
“When I send my kids off to school in the morning I want to know it’s a safe place and not worry about guns,” she said.
”I just want us to be safe in our schools,” asserted 13-year-old Booker Johnston Powell, a student at Oak Crest Middle School in Encinitas.
When asked whether arming teachers would make her feel safer in school, 10-year-old Cedar Johnston Powell, who studies at Ada Harris School in Cardiff, said “no way.”
Greg Orth, a retired educator who now works for the school district in nearby Carlsbad, was impressed by the turnout of motivated young people. ”That’s a terrible solution,” she said with contempt.
“Every generation has had these kinds of epic moments when something big is happening, and we’ve got to pay attention to it,” he said. “This is a huge voice we need to listen to; these kids are right at the epicenter of all the change that’s happening.”
“These kids are so much more informed,” he said. “Social media has given them access to so much information and so many different viewpoints, and for them to organize this way would have been impossible 10 years ago.” Orth credited social media with enabling organization on a global scale.
Melinda Stevens, who taught the children of US troops in Germany, said that while she believes children should be educated about guns, that should be the end of teachers’ involvement with firearms.
“That’s not our job,” she asserted when asked if she would like to be armed. “It’s not appropriate. We’re there to teach, we’re there to educate kids.”
Stevens’ protest companion, Cardiff school nurse Melissa Clark, urged disaster preparedness in schools.
”More guns aren’t the answer,” she said. “As a nurse, I would never carry a gun, and I don’t think our union would approve it either.”