SANDPOINT — The snow and the rain didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of a group of Sandpoint High School students and their supporters as they took their call for sensible gun reform to the streets of Sandpoint on Saturday.
In all, about 300 people turned out for the March for Our Lives event, held to correspond with similar marches around the country, including a march in Washington, D.C., that was organized by survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14.
Dutt Rogers, Sandpoint High School ASB president, who helped organize the local march said those gathered near City Beach wanted to hold the march to protest the gun violence they see every day in the America, especially in its schools.
Schools should be a peaceful environment for students, a place where they can go to study math, science, history and English, where they can have fun with friends and focus on learning. With current gun regulations, Rogers said those places of learning aren’t the safe place they should be.
While some statistics point out that more Americans have died from guns since 1970 than have died in all American wars combined, Rogers said there is positive news. In the recent spending bill signed by President Donald Trump, the bill would make it easier for the Center for Disease Control to study gun violence and creates incentives to bolster reporting by federal agencies to the database for gun-buyer background checks.
Rogers noted that regulation can improve safety, pointing to the high number of deaths when automobiles first became a mass mode of transportation out in the early 1900s. As the federal government required safety features, the death count fell.
“Just like cars are controlled with federal regulations, so can guns be with improved gun safety laws,” he said.
The teen told the crowd his generation is no longer content with sitting back or being quiet.
“It’s really important that we as students use our voices to express our opinions,” Rogers told the crowd before he and fellow students lead the crowd into downtown Sandpoint on the march that would wind its way down First Avenue, over to Cedar, down Third, and Larch before a short stop on Fifth Avenue where the crowd hoisted their signs and waved to the passing cars, some of which honked and gave a thumbs up out the window. “Even though we may not be able to vote or be able to run for office, we can still sway our legislators.”
For adults joining the march, it was a chance to offer their support for both the teens and their call for sensible gun reform.
“Because we need it here just as much as anywhere,” said Ellen Weissman. “We need safety in our schools. We need education and kids have to cope with depression and possible suicide. We need to get people to be friendly again, to stop the bullying.”
Friend Lynne Campbell agreed, pointing to the teens, “These are the adults in the room. It’s time for the rest of us to stand up and be adults, too.”
It’s time, her sister Laurice Campbell added, for a different conversation. One where the focus is on what Americans can do to protect the nation’s children, on providing mental health care, and sensible gun control.
Weissman agreed, saying restrictions aren’t the only answer. The country needs to be talking about the causes for the shootings and what can be done about them.
“It’s really not about taking away someone’s Second Amendment rights,” said Weissman. “It’s about being smart.”
Students who took part in the march, including area middle and high schools, said they’ve grown up with active shooter drills, and no longer feel safe in their classrooms. They are concerned that nothing has changed, that each shooting seems to be followed by another. They aren’t, they noted, trying to take away anyone’s rights or guns — they just want to be safe.
“We need to be the generation that comes forward to see change across America,” Rogers said.
He said his generation has grown up with social media, talking with friends, sharing their thoughts and ideas. Now that tool is being used to spread change.
“We are a motivated generation,” said Rogers, who has been accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy. “We’ve seen the complacency over the last 40 years that has just been around since the baby boomer generation did lots of activism. Things need to change, things haven’t changed for years, we’re seeing that and we’re frustrated.”
Rogers said he and others at the school were inspired by the Parkland students and has a simple answer for those who say they’re too young or being used by others.
“You’re never too young to be shot. Anybody can be shot and killed by a gun so why can’t we have a voice about the issue?,” he added. “We’re in high school and we’re being asked to do projects and classes about ideals about our government and we are expected to have opinions there, so can’t we have opinions outside of school?
“Things need to happen. Our generation is powerful and students are coming together and will continue to come together until something is done about gun control.”
Caroline Lobsinger can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @CarolDailyBee.