PITTSBURG — On Saturday, people walked down Broadway chanting “Away with NRA” and “Enough is Enough.”
The people rallied in solidarity with “March for Our Lives,” which thousands of students and other gun control supporters across the states have joined in with the Washington D.C. rally.
Beginning at Pittsburg Community Middle School and ending at Pritchett Pavillion, there were guest speakers including Pittsburg State University students and teachers, students from Pittsburg High School — some of whom helped organize the all-school “walkout” on March 14 — and the Progressive Democrats of the 13th Senate District of Kansas, which also hosted the event.
Several people during Pittsburg’s rally carried various signs which reflected their thoughts on gun control.
Pittsburg High School student Madison Magel’s read “IF I grow up I want to be a surgeon.”
Magel said she put “if” because “safety in school is not guaranteed.”
PHS student Ximena Ibarra said students do “know about gun violence and gun control.” She listed out various shootings and spoke about various times students have been involved in protests. Ibarra said she is tired of being called the “Tide Pod generation from people who ruined the economy.”
PHS student Meghan Hess said the survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida have received “thinly veiled threats from organizations such as the NRA and their school has been on lockdown due to the extreme of threats.” She said these responses are “an attempt to quell the resistance, anger in the fierce unrelenting questioning of our government.” Hess said those rallying and protesting “are a force to be reckoned with” and they “stand with the survivors of Stoneman Douglas and the shootings before that and the victims of future shootings, which will result from the inaction of our government any bloodshed further on will be on the hands of men and women [which include the various people who “threatened” the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students]…”
PHS student Journey Jaramillo said she now “demands” more extensive background checks and ban on bump stocks instead of “asking.” She said putting the blame on bullying only “distracts from gun violence” and “puts the blame against the school body instead of the perpetrator.” Jaramillo said she knows bullying is wrong and she does not condone it, but gun control is “a place to start.”
Representative Monica Murnan (D-Pittsburg) said things happen quickly in the legislature and it sometimes things come up “when you’re not watching,” she said.
She said guns are not an easy topic and the bills are “never clear cut.”
“I drove south thinking everything was dandy,” she said. “I get on Twitter and I found out about a bill that is going to be rolling in when I get back on Monday and it is specific to guns and schools on allowing teachers to conceal carry and it has to do with insurance.”
Pittsburg Mayor and Progressive Democrats of the 13th Senate District of Kansas Chair Jeremy Johnson told the crowd protesters there has been in a “downtrend” in making sure citizens “stay safe and are able to lead happy productive lives without the fear of being shot in public,” in the past several years because it is legal for people without license be able to carry guns, “basically wherever they want to.”
Johnson said he doesn’t think teachers would have all the training necessary to take on a perpetrator, and having more guns around will only make things more difficult for responders. “This is the basis behind the movement in trying to arm teachers in schools [legally allowed to be armed in public places],” he said. “Just because there are more guns around, it doesn’t mean the so-called good guys can take out the bad guys … being able to pull out a gun is not practical for everyday teachers or librarians — to expect them to step into soldier mode.”
Lakeside Elementary School Principal Rhonda White said safety is top priority in schools and “to consider that we can arm staff to provide safety is irrational and unwise.” she said. “We need to be looking at wise gun regulation that our country needs.
“The climate and culture in buildings need to be cultivated to be positive, accepting and tolerant of others’ differences.”
She said the training law enforcement experiences are extensive and intensive, and having a bill which would fund guns for teachers would not be wise, nor would it be helpful for law enforcement.
“There are so many factors involved in it,” she said “How are they [law enforcement] going to know who is an intruder verses a staff member?”
Nation and worldwide
Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida hosted the main “Walk for Our Lives” event in Washington. On Feb. 14 their former classmate opened fire and killed 17 students and staff. The students have received national attention after becoming activists for gun reform.
According to the Associated Press, the series of protest across the United States is “shaping to be one of the biggest youth protests since the era of the Vietnam War.”
The protests, according to AP, reached as far as Paris, France with approximately 100 demonstrators who rallied in solidarity with the American “March for Our Lives.”
No one during Saturday’s rally in Pittsburg publicly counter-protested, but according to AP pro-gun activist hosted counter-protests in various cities in western U.S.
According to AP the White House has applauded "the many courageous young Americans exercising their First Amendment rights.” White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said "keeping our children safe is a top priority" of President Donald Trump.
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.