"It's time for change when it comes to gun control," she told the crowd. "It's time to save some of those 96 daily lives."
Mountain View High School joined an estimated 2,500-plus schools in a nationwide protest calling on members of the U.S. Congress to pass meaningful gun-control legislation. Similar student-organized events took place simultaneously at Los Altos High School and Palo Alto High School.
Mountain View City Council member Ken Rosenberg told students that he was happy to see so many students stepping up to speak their minds on the gun-control debate, and encouraged them to take the next step by voting and talking to local, state and federal lawmakers. The youth voting rate in this country is abysmal, he said, but students can change that. The League of Women Voters set up a booth at the event to register students to vote at the rally.
"You have to write, you have to march, you have to talk, and more importantly, you have to vote," Rosenberg said. "Legislation is being stopped by tons of money, and if you can't convince somebody to change their mind, you have to vote them out."
The catalyst for the student-run event was the Parkland shooting last month, where 17 students and educators were killed by a gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14. Student organizers at Mountain View and Los Altos high schools said they were inspired by the students at the Florida high school for rallying against gun violence and calling for more strict gun-control legislation, and said they wanted to use the local walkout as an opportunity to stand in solidarity with them.
Mountain View High School senior Zack Moore said he will always remember Valentine's Day as the date when a gunman, wielding a "weapon of war," gunned down 17 people despite all the precautions — like emergency drills and limits on campus access — that were supposedly there to protect the teens at the school.
"The (Florida) students look like us, they talk like us, they take the same classes, and I know many of you have come to realize that this could have happened to you," Moore said.
Mountain View senior Serena Myjer said she has been shooting guns since she was 10 years old in a safe, controlled environment, and that gun hobbyists have the right to collect firearms, but she said there has to be a clear line drawn between hobby guns and guns designed to fire virtually at the speed of automatic weapons and enable mass shootings.
"Some guns are simply too dangerous for public sale," Myjer said.
Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga said she was excited and honored to stand by the students, not only to remember the 17 victims in Parkland but also as a means for calling on the nation to rise up and create change that will make it safer for kids to go to school, go to concerts and live their lives without the fear of gun violence.
Abe-Koga said there are local measures that can be taken by the city of Mountain View to limit gun violence that go beyond California law, pointing out that Sunnyvale has local measures restricting the size of magazines to no more than 10 rounds. Last week, the Sunnyvale City Council also unanimously voted to explore whether the city can ban the sale of firearms to anyone under the age of 21. Abe-Koga said she wants to consider similar restrictions in Mountain View if her fellow council members would be willing to follow suit.
"It's something the state and federal government should do, but until then, it's up to us," she said.
School and district administrators largely took a hands-off approach to the walkout, which lasted about 40 minutes at Mountain View High School. In a message to parents earlier this month, Superintendent Jeff Harding said measures would be taken to ensure student safety and classes would follow the normal schedule, and that student organizers would be given the room to express themselves.
"We encourage our students to exercise their First Amendment rights to peacefully and thoughtfully express their views on myriad issues," Harding said in the statement. "Students have told us that they feel very strongly about standing in solidarity with their fellow students in Florida and across the nation."
Mountain View High School Principal Dave Grissom said he was frequently in touch with student organizers, and that he was proud of the way they handled the event. The walkout was designed to be a safe, peaceful demonstration, and he said students were fully aware that it was an act of civil disobedience. He said the walkout should hopefully spur a meaningful dialogue about the hot-button national issue of gun violence.
"It's time for parents to start listening to the students," he said. "Not just at Mountain View High School but around the country."
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