The West’s students rally for gun reform

Students across the region join the National Walkout Day protest for school safety.

  • Students protest gun violence during a national school walkout to remember the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. Billings West High School, Billings, Montana.

    Casey Page/Billings Gazette
  • Students gather around 17 empty desks representing the shooting victims from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. McClatchy High School, Sacramento, California.

    Randall Benton/The Sacramento Bee via AP
  • Beyonce Brooks, 17, wears a handmade shirt that reads “Life Matters Not Guns,” at a protest against gun violence at the Arizona State Capitol. She and other students met with local legislators after two-thirds of her school walked out in remembrance of the 17 students killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Millenium High School, Goodyear, Arizona.

    Caitlin O'Hara
  • Students link arms around 17 desks, one for each of those killed during the Parkland, Florida, shooting. East High School, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

    Jacob Byk/The Wyoming Tribune Eagle via AP
  • Students, chanting and carrying signs, march toward the Alaska State Capitol for a rally focused on school safety. Juneau, Alaska.

    Becky Bohrer/AP Photo
  • Ryler Hanosky, left, and Bret Gillespie call for teachers to be armed during a counter-protest as classmates participate in a walkout to protest gun violence. Hillcrest High School, Idaho Falls, Idaho.

    John Roark/The Idaho Post-Register via AP
  • A student cries during a school walkout to protest gun violence. Las Vegas Academy of the Arts, Las Vegas, Nevada.

    John Locher/AP Photo


Last month’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was the tipping point for students across the country who say they are tired of feeling afraid of going to school. On Wednesday they walked out of campuses at 10 a.m., marched to capitol buildings and protested for gun reform. The students, their teachers and parents called for changes such as increasing the age of gun ownership, pushing for universal background checks, and, in some places, arming teachers.

The West has been home to several shootings over the years including one of the first mass school shootings, which took place at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, in 1999. In October, the region was again shaken by tragedy, when a gunman killed 58 people at a country music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada. In the West, students aren’t just calling for safer schools, they want to see safer communities. They rallied in every Western state, joining with the rest of the nation calling for stricter gun regulations and shaming politicians for peddling to the NRA.

The student-led efforts have only just begun. On March 24, students will again gather for the March for Our Lives demonstration in Washington, D.C. and for sister marches organized across the country. Spencer Hurt is a high school student at Central High School in Grand Junction, Colorado, who founded Grand Valley Students United in the wake of the Florida tragedy. Hurt said the move to organize for gun reform hasn’t been the most popular in his school district, where most residents are conservative. “We aren’t trying to ban guns. We aren’t trying to take away second amendment rights,” he said. “We are just trying to promote safety.”

Jessica Kutz is an editorial intern at High Country News.