Youth in revolt: Students demand common-sense gun reform at walkouts across boro

Youth in revolt: Students demand common-sense gun reform at walkouts across boro
Photo by Caleb Caldwell

These kids get an A in activism.

Thousands of students rallied for stricter gun laws during school walkouts across the borough on Wednesday — one month to the day that a gunman killed 17 people when he opened fire inside a Florida high school.

“Enough is enough — I want my voice to be heard,” said Tyler Ovenden, a senior at Brooklyn Tech. “There are all these shootings, and no one has spoken up.”

Impassioned pupils from the Fort Greene high school joined kids from Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn Heights, PS 321 and the four schools within the John Jay Educational Campus in Park Slope, Fort Hamilton High School in Bay Ridge, Midwood’s Edward R. Murrow High School, and other borough learning houses at demonstrations across Kings County.

Participants in the 17-minute walkouts — which were timed to reflect the number of lives lost in Florida, but went on for much longer in many cases — brandished signs and shouted chants demanding common-sense gun legislation, including new laws to ensure assault weapons, such as the semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifle the 19-year-old Florida shooter used in his deadly rampage, don’t fall into the wrong hands.

And some young protestors expressed fears that their classrooms could become future targets if legislators do not act.

“As a student, the situation is very scary,” said Tasia Alam, a freshman at Edward R. Murrow. “I would hate to see myself in that situation, and gun control is being handled in a very poor manner.”

The rallies followed President Trump’s decision earlier this week to disavow his previous pledge to push for tighter gun laws and instead move toward a National Rifle Association–backed proposal to arm and train teachers who could defend students during an attack.

But the last thing many local students want is more firearms in classrooms, according to another Brooklyn Tech teen, who said even his educators recoiled at the thought.

“I don’t want my teachers to have guns,” said Nicolas Killmer. “Even my teachers don’t want to have guns.”

Borough President Adams, who led students and other residents in an after-school rally at the Prospect Park Bandshell that followed many of the morning walkouts, urged Brooklynites to stay vigilant in their fight for lasting reform.

“Now is that moment. We must do something about guns,” he said. “This rally is just the beginning of a movement for national change on this critical issue.”

And Mayor DeBlasio returned to Kings County to join the walkout at Edward R. Murrow, where he also spoke about the need to tighten gun regulations.

But despite Hizzoner’s involvement, kids who participated in the demonstration at the public high school were still marked absent from class, according to Alam, who said she would have appreciated a free pass from the leaders of the city’s education system.

“I would have done it either way, but I would prefer if I wasn’t marked absent,” she said.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.