Parkland Community Supports Students During Walkout

Their walkout was confined to the football field, which kept press and family members outside school grounds ― but that didn’t stop community members from showing up and cheering on students as they made their voices heard one month after a gunman killed 17 people at the school. 

Photographer Johanne Rahaman was in Parkland for HuffPost and captured the show of support from the Parkland community. See Rahaman’s images from Parkland below. 

Across the Nation, Students Walk Out To Protest Gun Violence

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Hundreds Of D.C.-Area Students Stage Gun Violence Protest At The White House

WASHINGTON ― As part of Wednesday’s nationwide walkout against gun violence, hundreds of students from Washington-area schools gathered at the White House before marching to the U.S. Capitol, in a bid to take their gun reform message directly to lawmakers.

At 10 a.m., they sat for a 17-minute moment of silence in honor of the victims of last month’s massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, with some students holding posters with the names of the dead.

President Donald Trump wasn’t there to see their protest as he was completing a trip to California.

Students told HuffPost that they had gathered early Wednesday morning at their schools in nearby suburbs and then took the Metro into the city.

Billy Scott, a student at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland, said that like many other schools, his held a moment of silence on Wednesday. But he thought that participating in a protest at the White House would be a bigger show of support for gun violence victims.

“Coming to D.C., coming to the White House, is a whole other thing to get our point across,” he said. “Power in numbers, right?”

Vasiliki Frantzis, from Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland, said that she remembered the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, which she said made her think about why people “would try to bring a gun into school.”

Rohan Kurup, from Northwood High School in Montgomery County, Maryland, said that he normally has not taken part in student protests, but was inspired this time.

“Maybe I should,” he said. “I don’t want to get shot at school.”

Most of the students who spoke to HuffPost said that school administrators and teachers seemed sympathetic toward students’ participation in Wednesday’s walkout, although they couldn’t publicly express that support. In fact, many schools nationwide have said they will penalize students with unexcused absences. 

Callie Newburgh and Chloe Appel, from Magruder High School in Rockville, Maryland, said some administrators were worried that “pro-gun people would put us in harm’s way.”

Appel estimated that about half of her school’s students were active in the protests, some at the White House and others at a lunchtime moment of silence at their school.

“The other half thinks it’s useless because we’re minors,” Appel said. “There are so many minors being affected by this. We can really make a difference, even if we’re not 18.”

Some students held signs noting that they would soon be old enough to vote, and their many chants included “Rock the vote.”

“We’re the next generation,” Scott said.

Fox News All But Ignores Nationwide Student Walkouts To End Gun Violence

At 10 a.m. local time across the country, thousands of students walked out of their schools for 17 minutes to observe the one-month anniversary of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida ― one minute for each person killed. Young people linked arms, held signs, led chants, sang songs and shared all of it on social media to protest gun violence.

And if you watched Fox News on Wednesday morning, you’d barely have known it was going on. 

The network that has repeatedly given a platform to gun-rights advocates devoted little time to the massive protest effort trending online, prompting mobile push notifications and earning wall-to-wall coverage on rival networks CNN and MSNBC.

Instead, Fox News bounced between a number of other national stories, spending much of its time on the Pennsylvania special election as the margin between Democrat Conor Lamb and Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone remained razor-thin, leaning ever so slightly in Lamb’s favor. 

Reporters on the conservative network’s “America’s Newsroom” program discussed President Donald Trump’s Tuesday announcement that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would be replaced by CIA Director Mike Pompeo and pondered other shake-ups that could be on the way. They showed footage of Trump visiting border wall prototypes, which he also did Tuesday. They covered the House Russia probe that ended Monday and paused to check in on Austin’s deadly package bombs.

Bizarrely, Fox News also took time to report on an armed home invasion in Milwaukee.

Meanwhile, students called on legislators to enact change on gun policy that has stagnated in the U.S. over recent decades. Powerful imagery circulated on social media and other news networks showing young people holding signs with #NeverAgain, the hashtag started by Marjory Stoneman Douglas student activists in response to the tragedy at their school.

When Fox News devoted time to the protests, it focused on students gathered in Washington, D.C., who spent their 17 minutes sitting with backs to the White House before marching on to Capitol Hill. One Fox field reporter checked in from a high school in Georgia.

Earlier on Wednesday, “Fox & Friends” reported on a Pennsylvania Catholic school that planned to pray for the Stoneman Douglas victims instead of stage a walkout like their secular counterparts.

“By praying for the victims, we could bring a great focus to the victims in this situation,” said a priest interviewed on the air. 

According to Fox News, “upwards of 600 demonstrations” were expected across the country. However, Youth EMPOWER, the branch of the Women’s March that organized Wednesday’s National School Walkout movement, expected thousands of events.

The walkouts will be followed by March for Our Lives, a March 24 anti-gun protest spearheaded by Stoneman Douglas activists that will be based in Washington, D.C., with sister marches planned nationwide. Another school walkout is scheduled April 20, on the anniversary of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting. 

These Photos Show The Strength Of Students As They Protest Gun Violence

In addition to commemorating the victims, the protests are intended to help spur national action to reduce gun violence. During the walkouts, students planned to observe 17 minutes of silence, one minute for each person killed in the Florida mass shooting. 

See photos from the walkouts below.

Today Is The National School Walkout To End Gun Violence. Read Live Updates Here.

Students nationwide are walking out of their schools on Wednesday to protest gun violence on the one-month anniversary of the Parkland massacre.

Thousands of students are expected to file out of their classrooms to join the National School Walkout, a massive protest organized by Youth EMPOWER, a branch of young activists affiliated with the Women’s March.

“Congress must take meaningful action to keep us safe and pass federal gun reform legislation that addresses this public health crisis,” organizers of the walkout wrote on their website. “We all have the right to live free from fear and violence in our community.”

In the liveblog below, HuffPost has identified participants who are minors by their first name, age and city.

7,000 Pairs Of Shoes Flanked The Capitol In Powerful Nod To Gun Violence

With the epicenter of policymaking looming large in the background, activists on Tuesday placed 7,000 pairs of empty shoes across the Capitol lawn, an impossible-to-ignore symbol of the children lost to gun violence since the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre.

Families who have lost children to shootings were invited to contribute their kids’ shoes, said global advocacy group Avaaz, which organized the event. 

“I’ll be traveling to DC literally wearing my son Daniel’s shoes, the ones he wore the day he died at Columbine,” said Tom Mauser, whose son was killed in the Columbine mass shooting. “I think this kind of event with shoes offers a very powerful metaphor both for how we miss the victims who once filled those shoes, and also for how we see ourselves wanting to walk in their place, seeking change, so that others don’t have to walk this painful journey.”  

People across the country, including celebrities, donated shoes to the display, which Avaaz said covered more than 10,000 square feet of grounds outside the Capitol. Several Democratic lawmakers visited the site, taking the opportunity to call out congressional inaction on gun reform. 

According to CNN, Avaaz took the 7,000 figure from a 2017 American Academy of Pediatrics report which claimed that almost 1,300 children die from gunshot wounds in the US every year.

Calls for gun reform have intensified in the wake of the mass shooting at Parkland, Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last month, when 19-year-old gunman Nikolas Cruz killed 17 students and school staff.

The push for gun control has had mixed results. Florida Gov. Rick Scott last week signed into law a new gun control bill that enables some teachers who undergo proper training to carry concealed weapons, in addition to other restrictions like raising the minimum purchase age for guns from 18 to 21. The National Rifle Association sued the state in response.

President Donald Trump initially indicated that he supported some gun control efforts, including raising the national purchasing age, but back-pedaled after meeting with the NRA.

The White House instead unveiled a list of proposals including arming some teachers and enhanced background checks. He also established a Federal Commission on School Safety to provide further recommendations.

The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote Wednesday on a bill to offer more resources to schools, in the form of mental health support, strengthened reporting systems and heightened security. The bill does not mention guns.

Students Have The Right To Participate In Gun Violence Walkouts

WASHINGTON — Students who participate in Wednesday’s national school walkout to protest gun violence and memorialize the 17 people killed in last month’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School  will be exercising their constitutional rights.

But many schools are seeking to discourage protest, and some have warned they will punish students for participating in the walkout. Threatened penalties vary, from suspensions to docked grades.

As students across the country, motivated by the Stoneman Douglas students-turned-activists, plan actions to advocate for gun control, the question of rights and punishment can become complicated.

A 1969 Supreme Court case, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, affirmed that students and teachers have a right to protest, unless schools can prove an act “materially disrupts classwork or involves substantial disorder or invasion of the rights of others.”

“It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate,” the justices wrote in favor of junior high and high school students suspended for wearing armbands protesting the Vietnam War.

But schools that typically impose penalties for missing class can still punish those who participate in Wednesday’s walkout. Georgetown University law professor Heidi Li Feldman told HuffPost that students should not expect “a guarantee that your school won’t sanction you,” but they cannot explicitly say that they are punishing students due to the gun violence walkout.

“There’s a lot of legal doctrine which protects speech, political speech in particular, against penalty,” Feldman said. “What they cannot do is penalize students for expressing a particular viewpoint.”

However, schools can place restrictions on protest if they deem it “too much of a disruption — it’s not an appropriate time, manner, or place,” she said.

Schools with a history of allowing administrators “to exercise a lot of discretion, case by case” in enforcing policy could find themselves in legal trouble, she said. For example, a school that usually allows a parental note to excuse an absence, but won’t on the day of the protest, may have a problem.

If I were a lawyer advising a school district, I would say … it’s not worth risking a claim that you’re infringing the First Amendment.”
Heidi Li Feldman, Georgetown Law professor

Schools are in a stronger legal position if they enforce policies consistently, or “can give a good explanation of when they make exceptions,” Feldman said.

Students also plan a national walkout on April 20, the anniversary of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre.

Anticipating questions about students’ rights, the American Civil Liberties Union has put together training materials and other resources, pointing out that “the law in most places requires students to go to school,” so “schools can discipline you for missing class.”

The ACLU advised students to learn their school’s policies for missing class, and to monitor whether the rules “are being applied differently when it comes to your walkout.” 

The high-profile walkout and attention from groups like the ACLU may make it unwise for schools to impose punishments, Feldman suggested.

“If I were a lawyer advising a school district, I would say, unless you’ve been extremely consistent in enforcing whatever sanction you want to enforce against students who are absent or who leave school because of their participating in a gun protest, it’s not worth risking a claim that you’re infringing the First Amendment,” she said.

Trump’s Weak Gun Proposal Is A Big Political Test For The Parkland Movement

Students across the country are planning to walk out of their schools on Wednesday in a demonstration demanding action on gun violence.

The timing could not be better, because the renewed campaign for tougher gun laws now faces its biggest test ― whether, in the face of a major political setback, it can sustain the energy that has kept it going since February’s mass shooting in Parkland, Florida.

That setback happened on Monday, when President Donald Trump released his proposal for fighting gun violence.

Less than two weeks ago, Trump presided over a televised, bipartisan meeting at the White House, where he boasted of standing up to the National Rifle Association and vowed to pass the kind of ambitious, meaningful gun legislation that his predecessor could not.

But the agenda Trump released Monday is yet another example of big talk before tiny action.

It doesn’t include expanding background checks so that they include all sales. It doesn’t include a ban on some or all assault-style weapons. He’s not even endorsing more anodyne proposals, like a higher minimum age for the purchase of assault weapons.

Trump’s agenda is yet another example of big talk before tiny action.

Instead, Trump is calling to arm teachers, tweak the current background check system, and launch a blue-ribbon commission that will “investigate” options for further action.

The commission’s leader will be Betsy DeVos, the secretary of education ― yes, the person who keeps getting confused about her own department’s policies during public appearances and, during her confirmation hearings, said she supported guns in schools in case of grizzly bear attacks in places like Wyoming.

Trump did endorse one potentially important policy idea: passing laws that would give law enforcement power to take guns from people who threaten public safety. But that was an exhortation for states, not Congress, to act.

The pattern, alas, is familiar. After the Sandy Hook massacre in December 2012, then-President Barack Obama made new gun legislation the first priority of his second term. Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, worked with Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania to craft a bipartisan bill to expand background checks.

But every other Republican opposed it and a handful of Democrats did too. It was six votes short of the 60 it needed to clear the Senate.

The bill didn’t lack popular support. On the contrary, polls at the time showed that a large majority of Americans supported expanding background checks. But more rural, more conservative states have disproportionate power in the Senate, and their lawmakers tend to be more skeptical of gun legislation.

The ones who might have been wavering ― the ones who believe firmly in a right to bear arms but also consider background checks a reasonable way to manage ownership ― worried about political backlash.

They figured the polls didn’t capture the intensity gap on guns, which has historically favored the NRA and its allies. Come the next election, these lawmakers figured, the only voters who would care or remember about a background check bill would be the ones who oppose gun legislation.

The political landscape looks pretty similar right now. Universal background checks are extremely popular. So are bans on assault-style weapons. Support for these ideas has, if anything, grown since the Parkland shooting.

But Republicans are in charge of Congress, and many oppose new gun legislation on principle. The ones willing to consider aggressive gun legislation figure they have more to fear from angry supporters of gun rights than they do from angry supporters of gun control laws.

The student-led movement for new gun laws can change that.

Wednesday’s demonstrations are the first step. If students really walk out, all across the country, it will be a sign that the movement represents more than a fleeting reaction to the Parkland shooting.

The election is still more than seven months away.

Next comes the march on Washington, at the end of the month. If turnout looks anything like it did for the 2017 women’s march, it will capture national media attention and suggest that supporters can maintain their intensity, just as the NRA and its allies always have.

But the push for new gun laws can’t stop there, because the election is still more than seven months away. Advocates need to keep applying pressure in a visible way ― by, for example, showing up at public events for lawmakers who would oppose new gun laws.

That model worked pretty well for defenders of the Affordable Care Act in 2017. Although many Republican lawmakers responded by canceling their public, town hall-style events, that strategy won’t work this time, because the Republicans will have to be out campaigning.

Advocates for new gun laws will also need to hone their arguments about what they want and why they think it will work. This should be easier than it was after Sandy Hook, because organizations like the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Everytown For Gun Safety and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence have spent the intervening years gathering and analyzing research, and translating it for advocates who are trying to make arguments.

Choosing targets will also be a challenge. The primary focus of the campaign will inevitably be Republicans, because as long as the GOP is in charge of Congress, meaningful legislation has virtually no chance of passing. But there are Democrats who oppose gun legislation, and the new movement will have to single them out too.

That means pointing out Democrats like Conor Lamb, the candidate hoping to win Tuesday’s special election for a Republican House district in Pennsylvania. Lamb has said he opposes new gun laws.

Above all, though, the advocates for legislation have to keep calling b.s. when they see it. That very much includes Monday’s effort from the White House, which administration officials have tried desperately to portray as ambitious.

The Trump administration’s gambit here is clear. Officials want to make the vast majority of Americans who support meaningful gun laws believe the administration is on their side, while endorsing measures that either won’t make much difference or won’t pass anyway.

It’s easy to assume the gambit will succeed, because that’s how the gun debate has played out in the recent past. But there are reasons to think this time will be different.

One of them is the students leading the movement right now. They have the country’s sympathy, but they are also smart and savvy. They grasp intuitively how to make arguments and organize through social media. What they don’t know, they are learning quickly.

And they are not alone. They are part of a broader uprising against Trump, his allies and the policies they pursue. It started with the women’s march, carried on through the fight against Obamacare repeal, and has grown to include protests on behalf of Dreamers and West Virginia public school teachers.

That is the kind of movement that can produce legislation and, ultimately, save lives. They just have to keep at it. Wednesday is their first opportunity.

Trump Gun Proposal Probably Won’t Include Universal Background Checks

One of President Donald Trump’s top spokesmen on Sunday all but confirmed that the White House would not include universal background checks in its proposal for reducing gun violence. 

Less than two weeks ago, at a bipartisan meeting with lawmakers at the White House, Trump expressed support for the idea.

White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah shied away from an embrace of that position during an appearance Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” His backtracking was consistent with Wall Street Journal reporting from Saturday and what many skeptics had predicted.

Host Jon Karl reminded Shah of what Trump had said at the Feb. 28 meeting ― in particular, the president’s support for universal background checks.

“I was in the room when he was negotiating with congressional leaders,” Karl said.  “He … made it very clear that he favors universal background checks on all gun purchases.”

Karl then asked it that would be part of the administration’s legislative recommendations to Congress

“Well, improving the background check system is going to be a big component of…” Shah said, before Karl interrupted him.

“He didn’t say improving, he said making them universal,” Karl said.

“I understand, but I’m saying improving background checks from the ‘Fix NICS’ legislation” would be part of the proposal, as well as other measures, Shah said.

NICS is the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which is already in place. “Fix NICS” is a bill sponsored by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) to bolster the system by improving the flow of information into it from states and various federal agencies.

In the wake of last month’s mass shooting at a Florida high school, the bill has widespread support. But what it calls for is far less ambitious than universal background checks. That provision would extend NICS so that it includes private sales, such as those that often occur at gun shows.

At the White House meeting, Trump surprised many of his allies by saying he supported a universal background check proposal that Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) had tried and failed to pass in 2013.

Opposition by nearly all Republicans and a handful of Democrats left the bill a few votes short of the 60 it needed to pass the Senate.

Other administration officials have previously walked back Trump’s comments at last month’s session with lawmakers. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said just two days later that Trump did “not necessarily” support universal background checks.

Many experts believe that such expanded checks have the potential to reduce gun violence, especially if they were part of a broader, more stringent licensing system of the kind a few states have in place.

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