Students are scared of a shooter entering their school and are demanding authorities do something about it.
That message came across loud and clear Saturday as students held the spotlight and people of all ages came by the thousands to support them at the Rhode Island March for Our Lives held on the steps of the State House.
Coventry High School junior Tyler Alexander, the first in a series of youthful speakers, recalled how the state has been a leader in so many movements starting with religious freedom, adding, “We are falling behind in gun control.”
Alexander told of how his school went through a lockdown drill last month that was followed shortly afterward by a power outage caused by a storm. Students and faculty didn’t know what had happened, whether it might have been caused by a shooting incident.
“You wonder if a gunman is going to kill us…we shouldn’t have to live in fear every day,” he said.
“We have the natural right to life. How are we to pursue happiness when we’re paralyzed by fear every day?”
The Rhode Island march was one of scores held across the country in coordination with the march at the nation’s capital organized by students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where a gunman using an AR-15 assault rifle killed 14 students and three faculty members.
To cheers, Alexander called for universal background checks on those buying guns; raising the legal age to purchase all firearms to 21 and for a 30-day waiting period between application for and issuance of a gun permit.
Halima Ibrahim, a 10th-grader at the Islamic School of Rhode Island, opened her remarks contrasting the capabilities of firearms when the U.S. Constitution was written and what they are capable of today.
“Since gun technology has changed, how about changing our gun rules, too,” she said.
Ibrahim rallied the crowd with her plaintiff and demanding cry to “wake up.”
“More guns will do nothing to help – wake up; to allow more guns is to allow more deaths. Wake up…do not allow this to become normal. Wake up.”
The crowd joined in, chanting, “wake up.”
“Like you, I’m sick of gun violence,” said Gov. Gina Raimondo.
Deliberately, Raimondo kept her remarks brief, but she encouraged the young demonstrators to sustain their efforts. Referring to prior gun control efforts, she said, “This time it feels different because of you. We are listening. Keep going until assault firearms are banned.” She also called for a ban on concealed weapons in schools.
“Keep pushing so we can do the right thing,” she said.
“We need to all get on board with trying to find a solution to this problem. That means Republicans, that means Democrats, that means older people, that means young people,” said Toll Gate graduate Nathan Cornell. “I want to live in a world where I do not come home or wake up and find out that there has been another school shooting. We cannot let school shootings become a new norm.”
Nina Gregg, a Rhode Island School of Design sophomore and a 2016 graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas graduate, said those who lost their lives in the Feb. 14 shooting were her neighbors’ sons, daughters, husbands and dads. She called for action in November.
“As you have undoubtedly learned, some lawmakers are not ready to protect us,” she said. “So we will gladly use our voting power to protect ourselves. Guns have no rightful place in our story.”
Sophia Capalbo, a junior at Johnson & Wales University and organizer of the Rhode Island march, in opening remarks, which were cheered, said, “People underestimate the power of young voices…we will act like adults when adults are acting like children…today is the beginning of change.”
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse urged the audience to “remember how you feel today in November.” He said not to underestimate the power of money in Congress, adding, “We’re one election away from making a very big change.”