Helena Youth Against Gun Violence Group Forms After Florida School Shooting
Students in Helena are joining the March For Our Lives movement spurred by the slaying of 17 people at a school in Parkland, Florida last week. They met Wednesday night.
More than 30 kids sat on sofas in the lobby of a downtown Helena apartment building Wednesday night, meeting as Helena Youth Against Gun Violence.
The group is planning a local march to coincide with the national March For Our Lives event in Washington DC, March 24, following outrage over the regularity of school shootings in the United States.
Clara McRae, is a junior at Capitol High School, and helped organize the event.
“I think a lot of the time the conversation just happens between adults and opposing political parties,” McRae said. “And you never really get the opinion of the kids, and we don’t know what we believe yet. So I think it is a lot easier for us to come together and have respectful dialogue without getting angry.”
Mariah Thomas, also a junior at Capitol, says she got angry when she heard about the shooting in Florida. She helped lead the event with McRae.
“I don’t understand why someone needs an assault rifle that can kill so many people in just a few seconds,” Thomas said. “It’s just not logical and it should never happen.”
During the more than hour long meeting, students broke into small groups and used colored markers to write down ideas about how to prevent gun violence on large white card stock paper.
Their ideas include pushing for people to have more training before being allowed to buy a gun, running drills, and planning in case a shooting happens. The group made a decision to avoid using the phrase “gun control” among their platform issues, instead using “gun awareness”. Several students said this was less polarizing.
Peyton Carlson is a senior at Capitol. He works behind the gun desk at Sportsman’s Warehouse and says he disagrees with what many others at the meeting think about guns, but he says he also agrees with some of them too.
“I guess the biggest thing for me would be to reiterate the education of firearms, maybe tightening up some legislation around guns, but really to reduce happenings like school shootings and stuff like that,” Carlson said.
Leaders of Helena Youth Against Gun Violence say they want to start out non-partisan, but are considering meeting with candidates, and possibly announcing endorsements before elections this November.