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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Columbia Falls Students Walk Out In Support Of Second Amendment

Students in Columbia Falls, MT walk out of class in support of the Second Amendment, May 2, 2018.
Nicky Ouellet
Students in Columbia Falls, MT walk out of class in support of the Second Amendment, May 2, 2018.

About 100 students walked out of Columbia Falls High School today in support of the Second Amendment. The walkout was part of a larger nationwide event.

Braxton Shewalter led the 16-minute Stand For The Second walkout on a patch of grass next to the Columbia Falls High School gym.

"Students like ourselves recognize the attacks on our rights and our future. We also know that our silence won't cut it anymore, and we won't be silenced in the national debate," Shewalter said.

The 100 or so participants, mostly boys, held banners for Trump, the Second Amendment and the American Flag. Some students wore Stand For The Second tee-shirts, and a few red “Make America Great Again” hats dotted the crowd.

Stand For The Second was initiated by a high schooler in New Mexico who says a swath of pro-gun American youth have been overlooked following recent media coverage of students calling for stricter gun control after the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Students in Columbia Falls are fierce defenders of the right to bear arms, but today, some of them said they want to see some of the same gun control measures that survivors of the Parkland shooting advocate for, like keeping guns away from people with violent criminal and domestic assault records.

Here’s sophomore Skylar Chute.

"Yeah, probably a decent background check, not letting people that shouldn't have guns have them. So, felons; people that don't deserve to have guns," Chute said.

Some students said they want to ban bump stocks, which can be used to modify semi-automatic rifles to make them fire faster, almost as fast as a fully automatic rifle. Some said existing laws are enough, like the ban on automatic weapons in civilian hands.

Debate about guns has permeated the school this spring. On March 14, about 50 students reportedly walked out of class as part of the National School Walkout day to honor victims of the Parkland shooting and advocate for safer schools. As they did so, Shewalter and a few friends held a counter-walkout attended by reportedly 60 students honoring the victims while supporting private gun ownership.

Senior Jordyn King says school administrators were adamant that the March 14 walkouts were apolitical. But she says Wednesday’s Stand For The Second, where students displayed a Trump banner and MAGA hats, was, “blatantly not.” She says she was surprised administrators gave students passes back to class to excuse missed time.

"That essentially makes it a school sanctioned, school approved event, which it was not originally intended to be. It basically forced the idea that the school is taking a stance here and that it does side with one opinion of students when the school administration refused to side with the opposite side of students," King said.

Columbia Falls High School administrators declined to be interviewed for this story.

Columbia Falls, which serves about 800 students, is the only Montana school reported to have taken part in Stand For The Second, which attracted backing from the Tea Party Patriots organization. Stand For The Second organizers expected students at about 400 schools nationwide to participate.

Nicky is MTPR's Flathead-area reporter.
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