One dollar and eighteen-cents.
That’s the figure student organizers of Friday’s school walkout at Ridgefield High School said each of their lives are worth to the National Rifle Association.
Despite heavy winds, an estimated 1,000 students walked out of their high school classes at 10 a.m., spearheaded by sophomore Lane Murdock.
The event, staged on the 19th anniversary of the mass shooting at Columbine High School, was a far more politically-inclined affair than a similar walkout on March 14, with students openly calling for reforms to the nation’s gun laws.
Unlike the March 14 walkout, a majority of the students who walked out on Friday remained on the field for the rest of the day and did not return to class.
“The fact that this is happening all over the country shows that we’re not going to wait for change, we’re going to make it,” said Murdock, as she led the column of students down to the Tiger Hollow.
“What do we want?” Murdock called out from a bullhorn at the head of the marching students. “Change!” her fellow marchers called back. She wore a bright orange coat and scarf — a color that has come to represent the student activist movement for stricter gun legislation
The marching students made their way down to the Tiger Hollow playing field, where the student’s arranged themselves on the astroturf — “hippy style,” Lane called it. Many of her fellow students swaddled themselves in blankets on the exposed field.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal was the event’s keynote speaker.
“I’m going to take this picture back to the Senate of the United States and say, ‘this is the future of the United States, you’d better respect these voices and these faces — you better know that we are in the middle of a new social change movement,’” Blumenthal told the crowd of students from a podium at the south end of the field.
“This movement is powered and led by young people who are willing to give their lives and come forward and show the courage and strength that you are today.”
Blumenthal said the movement will accomplish change to the nation’s gun laws “by walking into polling places.”
“My colleagues in Washington can count,” he said, “and they better count and see how many of you there are here today, ‘cause you are not only the future of America, you are future votes.”
CT Against Gun Violence
Jeremy Stein, the director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence, a group that advocates for stricter gun laws, took the senator’s suggestion of a photo of the students quite literally — he paused at the start of his remarks to snap a selfie in front of the students, who obliged him by holding up hand-made signs and cheering.
“Since Columbine, 19 years ago where 13 students just like yourselves were gunned down, 187,000 students have been exposed to gun violence on school campuses during school hours,” Stein told the students.
He said that figure was seven times the population of Ridgefield.
Stein offered praise for the students raising the issue of gun violence as a political issue, saying “your generation has done what mine failed to do.”
‘Coming in November’
Throughout the march, students held up hand-made signs that took deliberate aim at legislators, the National Rifle Association, and military-style rifles, which many of the organizers said should be banned from use by civilians.
“Nerf, or nothing,” read one sign held up by student Kiera McCrohan.
“Roses are red, violets are blue, screw gun violence and the NRA too,” said another sign held up by sophomore Victoria Gibian.
“Should I write my college essay or my will?” said another.
“It’s really incredible to see how many students are passionate about preventing gun violence,” said student organizer and RHS senior Max Cumming. “This right here is a testament to the commitment on behalf of the teenage generation right now.
“We’re devoted,” he added. “We’re coming in November, and we’re going to elect politicians who will enact common sense gun reform.”