Showing up - The next step after walking out

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By Ev Berger-Wolf & Casey Ford

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'Testing, testing, testing." A low whine fills the room. Mic checks done, we head down to nervously greet the important people. Celine Woznica from Moms Demand Action, Sharon Fairley who is running for Attorney General, Anthony Clark who is running for the 7th Congressional District, Angela Burges from NAMI, 7th District state Rep. Chris Welch, and Aaron Goldstein running for Attorney General. 

We lead them to the stage, let them sit where they please. Although the start of the event has been delayed, once we begin, it flows smoothly. No panelist is shy, and each is fierce in their support of gun control. We listen to them speak for over an hour, soaking in their encouragement to not fail the next generation the way they feel they have failed us.

After Parkland, we both shrugged off the death of another 17 students. It happened. Again. Just another shooting. What more was there to say? This is what we have grown up with: violence in our schools. Since Columbine, there have been 208 school shootings, 25 of which have resulted in deaths. The majority of high school students were born in and after 2000 — after Columbine in 1999. We are a generation that has grown up with lockdown drills, armed guards, and metal detectors. We are more knowledgeable on what to do in the instance of an active shooter than on paying taxes. We can name more school shooters off the top of our heads than we can name capitals of states.

Protesting, specifically walking out, is important. We are showing our solidarity and support for gun control. We are approaching, or have already reached, voting age, and will be the ones likely deciding any future changes in the political climate. It is important, however, to remember to take the next step: to make sure we, as students, are informed on the issues. The most important step is the first step out the door, but you cannot stop there. The walkouts show solidarity, that we are the voices of those affected by gun violence, and that we will not stop protesting. However, legislators still need to change and policies need to be passed; how will these things happen if students are not making their voices heard by their representatives?

This is where forums and town halls come into play. These events give voters a chance to listen to what their potential government officials plan to do and give the officials a chance to listen to what their voters want and need. While walkouts and other protests are incredibly important, it is sometimes a bit easier to miss 30 minutes of class for an invigorating speech than go to an hour-long panel in a hot auditorium. Change is not easy, though. It takes walking out of school over and over and over again. It takes showing up to an hour-long panel in a hot auditorium. It takes grit and it takes effort. It takes showing up.

"So," ask parents and students alike, "what can I do?"

We have this to ask of adults: Spread the word, support your children, and vote. This is a movement targeting the rampant gun violence prevalent throughout the United States. The NRA has spread and set roots so deep into the GOP and its base that make it next to impossible to get any real changes to the policies. Many of us teenagers will not be able to vote this November, so keep that in mind when you cast votes that will ultimately affect us.

As for our peers and future generations, the same applies. Spread the word, show up to walkouts and town halls, and talk to your parents about how they plan to vote. Your voice is important, regardless of what anyone says. Speak for what you believe in and get involved. If you wait for an invitation to the movement, you will be waiting a long time. Find a megaphone, stand on a chair, and get loud.

These are our lives on the line. We are the people who are being killed, over and over again. The right to have a hobby, the right to enjoy money and power should not be taking precedence over an innocent child's right to live. Nobody deserves to watch their friends gunned down in front of them or to fear for their own lives. Not in the street, not in the home, and certainly not in school, a place where we should feel safe and thrive. 

We will not stop walking out, we will not stop speaking to our representatives, not until we see that our voices are being heard, not until we see a change in the rate at which our classmates are being murdered. 

Enough is enough!

Ev Berger-Wolf and Casey Ford are students at OPRF High School and principal organizers of the town hall on gun violence held on March 14, following the student walkout.

Reader Comments

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Mike Hanline  

Posted: April 3rd, 2018 8:44 AM

Here you go, Ray! https://www.nbcchicago.com/blogs/ward-room/chicago-gun-trace-report-2017-454016983.html

Mosheh Wolf from Oak Park  

Posted: April 2nd, 2018 4:19 PM

@ Ray Simpson, The organization of the protests and the town hall meeting cost no more than the price of the construction paper for the signs. What do you think costs money here? The panelists did not ask for money, the students volunteered. As for organization - these kids regularly organize all sorts of events, and are well educated in the process.

Ray Simpson  

Posted: March 23rd, 2018 12:32 PM

@ Dwyer That explanation is beyond logic! You are saying that we have adequate laws and enforcement but because neighboring states have fewer laws and more guns we suffer. I assume you have some proof of that - sorta like your beloved dossier.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: March 22nd, 2018 1:07 PM

It is being treated as a crime in Illinois, Ray. If you had a clue about what's really going on, instead of sitting back in your NRA echo chamber, you'd know that. The fact remains that the ready availability of guns in states that do little to regulate deadly weapons, is a major reason Illinois is awash in such weapons.

Jenna Brown Russell  

Posted: March 22nd, 2018 11:26 AM

Mr. Dwyer, looking at homicide rates in the states you cited as the source of our problems is telling. Clearly, easy legal ownership does not increase crime, tolerating criminals must be it. Making it more difficult and expensive for the law abiding citizens of those states to exercise their rights will only make it more profitable for the law breaking thugs in Chicago. Someone who has armed scores of west side bangers should go to jail for life, not two years. We shouldn't seek to increase the value of an illegal weapon-which will continue to be marketed-but increase the cost of being caught with one. We have positively and knowingly adopted laxer possession punishments in our equity mission. And the most vulnerable, least equal, pay the highest price.

Ray Simpson  

Posted: March 22nd, 2018 10:14 AM

@ Jenna - This is a good explanation of the perils of "Straw Purchases" https://www.outdoorhub.com/news/2016/07/11/buying-selling-firearms-part-6-straw-purchases/ and no matter what Dwyer says they are an Illinois problem. Bringing an illegal gun into our state is a federal crime and should be treated as such -

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: March 22nd, 2018 7:16 AM

And with all due respect, Ms Russell, if adjacent states like Indiana and Wisconsin and Iowa and Michigan had more reasonable fire arms regulation, straw purchasers would not be able to obtain guns so easily. We are flooded with illegally obtained weapons in Illinois not because the courts are incompetent or uncaring, but because neighboring states are irresponsible.

Jenna Brown Russell  

Posted: March 21st, 2018 9:43 PM

With all due respect, Mr. Dwyer, straw purchases are outlawed, and those who get their weapons through one are outlaws. Earlier this year a woman in Mt Prospect was convicted on 4 felony counts of straw purchase/illegal sale. NO jail time. Last year, a man with a duffle bag full of guns for sale on a porch in Austin-transported on the mega bus from Indy (which was his full time gig, he was a frequent traveler)-24 months. You want this state to run differently, then run in differently. Make it a real bad idea not to follow our laws. Me, I'd rather punish the lawbreakers severely than the law abiding at all. Maybe I'm part Hoosier.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: March 21st, 2018 5:57 PM

What you really need to know, Adrian, is that the court system is routinely prosecuting and sentencing criminal for weapons violations. I see it all the time. Happy to show proof, rather than unsubstantiated opinion. The real problem isn't our court system, it's the documented FACT that the "shall issue" states surrounding Illinois- like Indiana and others- do not require any licensing of fire arms and do not require the registration of guns or their owners. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar.

Ray Simpson  

Posted: March 21st, 2018 4:27 PM

@Adrian - Do you know that gun sales in Illinois require a FOID card and the filing of a 4473 form as well as the FBI instant background check and each of them require sound mental health affirmation. The FOID program in Illinois checks it's database about four times a week for legal declarations of mental health problems, orders of protection, felony convictions and a lot more. My question to you is what is a comprehensive gun law and what good is it if our court system refuses enforcement. Everything I hear puts demands on those of us who participate in shooting sports, yet will not affect the young punk who only knows how to settle a score by killing someone. You might look into project exile which is a tough love program that has been very successful in Virginia. BTW project Exile is supported by the NRA as well as their Eddie Eagle" program that has run tens of millions of kids through gun safety training. I just learned about a program the NRA offers schools, public and private, to council them on hardening their security. Several poorer schools could not afford the changes so the NRA granted the money. Why would an organization you claim pines for child mortality.and gun violence expend private monies to do that. There is NO tax money given to the NRA except the costs in training law enforcement officers I Suppose. .

Adrian Rohrer  

Posted: March 21st, 2018 1:43 PM

Ah... the old mental health and personal responsibility chestnut. Nevermind that mental health is a worldwide problem. Nevermind that access to violent video games is a worldwide issue. Nevermind that many European countries have social safety programs that far eclipse the U.S.'s system. In the end, though, I'm not going to change your mind Ray, so I'll just post this aptly-titled headline and link from an Onion article in response: "This shooting isn't about the gun control we refuse to pass, it's about access to mental health care we're continuing to gut." https://politics.theonion.com/this-shooting-isn-t-about-gun-control-we-refuse-to-pass-1819585076

Ray Simpson  

Posted: March 21st, 2018 1:06 PM

These protests don't just happen. Organization and coordination is expensive, has anyone wondered where the financial largess is coming from? Looking quickly some far left progressive organizations pop up. Where do the kids get BOTH sides of the story and some rational alternatives to the ever present "Blame the NRA" or demand another law that will go un-enforced.This problem is not just a gun problem, it is a mental health problem, it is a problem of law enforcement, it is a problem of families that have been destroyed by our welfare system, it is a problem of never taking personal responsibility for your own group or family. Forget how people hurt one another and concentrate on WHY they do it.

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