North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

Students protest gun violence

 

Christopher Andersson

Local students from Marysville Getchell High School joined youth from across the nation in organizing to protest against gun violence.

Community members from around the county and local students held signs and spoke out on March 3 in downtown Marysville to protest the country's gun violence.

"This is an ongoing problem in our country and if no one brings awareness or makes a change it's never going to happen," said Marysville Getchell International School of Communications student Taylor Knocke.

"It's sad that we're starting now, we should have started sooner," she said.

Students said that they have grown up in a country that has had school shootings as long as they can remember.

"I was five years old when the Virginia Tech shooting took place. I was 11 when the Sandy Hook tragedy happened, 13 when the unthinkable came to our community, and 16 when 17 more lost their lives in Parkland, Florida," said Bailey Thoms, Marysville Getchell International School of Communications student and the main organizer of the protest.

"Unfortunately, school shootings are something we've all grown up with," she said.

And, in that time, students said school shootings have become normalized.

Local student Eden Au Nguyen said she was a freshman when the Oct. 24, 2014, shooting happened at Marysville-Pilchuck High School.

"It's passes my mind a lot recently because of a lot of the things that have happened, and it's kind of sickening that my guttural reaction when I check my phone and see another shooting has happened is 'oh, another one.' It shouldn't be something normal," she said.

Thoms said she didn't have all the answers or the best solutions to the problem.

"I don't know everything there is to know about gun laws, the Constitution or mental health, but what I do know is that we're scared, we're angry and we want to make a difference," she said.

Other students had a broad range of suggestions and opinions, from increased school security to better mental health funding to stronger gun control.

"I go through driver's ed. to drive a car because it's dangerous and it can kill someone, but I can get a gun without any training," said Knocke.

"It's not okay that in only 20 states there are strict age limits on when you can get a gun," she said.

Others focused on resources for safety and mental health programs.

"I'm here to show my support that I believe in funding mental health resources and more safety in schools," said Mikaylah Himmelberger, a Getchell student from the International School of Communications.

Getchell student Ethan Martin supported better security at schools.

"I'm not anti-gun, I'm anti-gun violence and students shouldn't be scared to go to school," he said.

Thoms said the idea of a protest came together in one of her classes.

"A student in my class stood up and said 'I'm scared to go to school,'" she said. "He's popular and an outstanding athlete, and for him to say that gave everyone else the voice to stand up in class as well."

They decided they "weren't waiting" and "wanted to do something now," said Thoms.

Although the school district cannot take a political position Thoms said they were supportive, along with her community.

Word got out quickly, she said, and many community members from Everett and Lake Stevens came to the event.

"We never expected this many people," said Thoms. "This was supposed to be a small class thing which is why we we're supposed to be on 4th [Street] and State [Avenue]. However the city had to call me yesterday and told us 'well, you got to move.'"

"I think it's come together pretty great. I didn't expect this many people. We've got a lot of hate from some of the students at our school, but we're still going to pull through," said Himmelberger.

Christopher Andersson

Marysville Getchell High School student Bailey Thoms, center with microphone, talks about gun violence in schools during a protest on March 3. She was the main organizer for the rally.

Thoms and students from Getchell joined students from across the nation in becoming politically active after the February shootings in Florida which left 17 dead.

Community member Lynn Lichtenberg, who came from Everett to support students, said she hopes change can occur.

"I'm extremely hopeful that this a turning point and that their energy and perspective is going to help change the conversation," she said.

She said it was "fabulous" that students are getting their voices heard.

"They need to know that they're empowered and we need to stand behind them. I think it's hopeful and wonderful," she said.

Thoms hopes that the shooting in Florida will the one that gets people to react.

"This last shooting has been different somehow, even though it's not. It's been happening for 20 years or more. This time I think we all got the message though," she said.

 

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