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Walkout: A Student Plea for Safety

Friday, April 20 was a national student walkout to protest our nation's continuing gun violence. Joining thousands of students around the country, my son Tim led his school's walkout, including a six minute "die-in". The group then walked to Washington Square Park for a larger rally. There, Tim led chants, read a speech, and was interviewed by a television station and a local news site.

Tim and his friend Olive Forgash are co-presidents of the Student Activities Club at the NYC iSchool. Below is the text of a speech that they co-wrote and which he delivered both outside his school and in front of a crowd in Washington Square.

Hello everyone, thank you all for making the time and effort to come to this rally.

As you know, today is the 19th anniversary of the Columbine high school shooting that left 15 people dead and 24 injured. Despite this event occurring almost two decades ago, we’ve seen little legislation passed to prevent tragedies like this from happening again.

America’s attitude towards guns allows innocent people to be murdered daily. Guns are ravaging communities, tearing loved ones apart from their families, and causing premature, avoidable deaths.

Several states in America require no proof of training before purchasing a gun, and if you have the money, you can avoid all background checks through the gun show loophole. I waited at the DMV for three hours to get a permit to LEARN how to drive, but this summer I could own a gun if I wanted to, without any knowledge of how to use it.

The 2nd amendment was meant for people to form militias and was written before we had a national army. Republicans like to act like their embrace of the second amendment is because of their dedication to constitutional fundamentalism, but when the Black Panthers embraced the 2nd amendment to protect themselves from the racist brutality of the police force, even Ronald Reagan argued against civilians owning guns.

Conservative news outlets and politicians have talked about arming teachers -- why should my teachers have to learn how to use a gun? Why should they be in a position to shoot their own students? And besides, school shooters are not afraid of dying since they know they’ll likely die or get taken down before they could escape. Even trained police officers only shoot their intended victims 18% of the time. How would a teacher have more accuracy. More guns are not the solution.

During 2016 alone, the NRA spent over $54 million to secure control of Congress and the Oval Office for crooked Republicans. The NRA spent at least $30.3 million on the Trump Campaign. It shouldn’t be a surprise that instead of offering legislation to prevent future massacres from occurring again, Republicans offered their “thoughts and prayers” instead of doing their job to protect the American people. We say enough with your thoughts and prayers. We say enough to these politicians pocketing millions while the people suffer.

We are not only here for the students who have been massacred in their schools. We are here for those who were murdered in Las Vegas and for the club goers who were slaughtered in Orlando.

We are here for the people in Chicago whose streets are flooded with guns. We are here for unarmed black men like Saheed Vassell, Stephon Clark, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, and Trayvon Martin whose lives were stolen from them by armed cops.

We aren’t asking for a removal of the 2nd Amendment. Despite false prophesies created by radical sources, we don’t want to remove all guns. What we ask is to ban the sale of assault rifles, as military weapons have no place in a functioning society. We ask to raise the minimum age to buy a gun to 21. We ask to further expand comprehensive background checks so guns don’t fall in the hands of the mentally ill. We ask to end private sales on guns and end the sale of guns at gun shows. We ask the NRA to stop buying our politicians and remain a convening group for gun owners. We are pleading to restore safety to our schools so that we can live in a world where a door slam doesn't register to a gunshot.

In order to keep on building the world, we must find the flaws within these old practices and become open to foreign ideas that will eventually have a place within our new social order. Whether it’s hearing about another unarmed black man being killed in the hands of the police, or 17 people being massacred at their high school, the older people in our society do little to stop these catastrophes from ever taking place again.

It is our generation’s turn to make a change, and we are ready for it. Please, if you are eligible to vote in the midterm elections GO VOTE. We are ready to make the change we desperately need.

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