SU Students Plan Walkouts, Push for Legislative Change

“These acts of violence should never be welcomed in any community,” Student Government of Seattle University Student Body President Pa Ousman Jobe said regarding mass shootings in the United States. “As students, we choose to use our voices and bodies to be in solidarity with our fellow students and all those that have suffered and still bear the pain of their loss. One life lost is one too many.”

At Seattle U, students are planning multiple demonstrations in an effort to advocate for school safety and more stringent gun laws, the first of which is called the National School Walkout. The walkout is a national effort to honor the lives of the 17 students who died in the Parkland, Fla. high school shooting by walking out of class for 17 minutes. Seattle U’s walkout will take place on March 14 at 10 a.m. at the Lemieux Library Plaza.

Miracle Orji, a junior chemistry major, was one of the students involved with creating and organizing the Seattle U walkout.

“It’s about acknowledging the fact that these people have died—kids have been dying in mass school shootings way before Parkland, but this is just one vigil that we can do to honor these few students,” Orji said. “It could be any one of us…anybody at any time could always be a victim of a shooting. I don’t think it’s out of the ordinary that we would take the time out of our day to honor these people and their families.”

In addition to the walkout, two nationwide marches are planned in the next two months to advocate for safety in schools.

The first of the two, March For Our Lives, is scheduled for March 24. Although it’s occurring across the country, the main demonstration will be in Washington D.C. where students will demand a comprehensive and effective bill to be brought before Congress.

The second march, called the “National High School Walkout,” encourages students across the country to walk out of class until the end of the school day. This march is set for April 20, which is the 19th anniversary of the school shooting that left 12 students and one teacher dead in Columbine, Colo.

However, despite students’ overwhelming support for more comprehensive gun laws to create safer schools, passing gun-related bills in the state capital can be convoluted.

The Washington State legislature is majority Democrat—but only by a narrow margin. In the House, Democrats have a two-seat edge, and they hold a one-seat edge in the Senate. Therefore, bills involving firearms have been a difficult topic in Olympia, despite Washington voters approving gun-related ballot measures by overwhelming margins in 2014 and 2016.

In a report published by The Seattle Times, Washington was ranked No. 1 in state-candidate contributions from the National Rifle Association (NRA). Candidate contributions totaled about $203,000 in both house and senate campaigns from 2012 to 2016. The next highest state to receive contributions from the NRA was Texas, where state-candidates received about $95,000 during the same period.

The Alliance for Gun Responsibility, a nonprofit organization that advocates for responsible gun laws, has been active during the most recent legislative session, which ended on March 8. Molly Mattingly, a junior sociology and public affairs major, is an intern for the Alliance.

“It’s important for students to go [to Olympia] because, for one, we wanted to honor the mass movement across the country of…college students really showing up and telling legislators that this is not okay, and that they really want gun responsibility laws in place,” she said.

During the three month session, lawmakers passed bills that will keep guns out of the hands of those who have been convicted of domestic violence, as well as banning the sale of bump stocks in the state.

However, they were unable to pass a pair of bills that were specifically tailored to improving firearm safety in schools, even after the school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

Senate Bill 6620 and House Bill 3004 aimed to raise the minimum age to purchase a semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21, and establish a series of procedures that would assist students in reporting possible threats of violence.

The sister bills allocated funding to both expedite law enforcement response to lockdowns or threats, and for law enforcement to conduct checks on semi-automatic rifles and shotguns, which is protocol for handguns in Washington state. The bills also detailed an anonymous method of making authorities aware of threats. The vote on these bills was on March 8, but ultimately failed in both parts of the legislature.

Mattingly emphasized the influence students can have in fighting for change, even when setbacks arise.

“Specifically with this issue, it’s important for student involvement and younger people’s involvement, because this is the world we’re going into and it’s affecting us the most.”

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