At 10 am today, across the country, students will stage a school walkout that will last 17 minutes, one minute each to mourn the victims of Parkland, FL mass murders and to protest for stricter gun control regulations across the country. It will be part of nationwide protests that include 7,000 pairs of shoes in front of the Capitol, one pair for each child killed by gun violence since Sandy Hook, and the upcoming protest March For Our Lives, which will see students and gun control advocates march across the country.
So what’s this walkout stand for, specifically?
- What are students protesting for? Specifically, the walkout support three regulations: A ban on assault weapons; universal background checks before any gun sale; and a restraining order law that allows judges to confiscate the weapons of people who show signs of violent behavior, such as domestic abuse.
- Who’s participating? Students, teachers, and staff are welcome to join the protest, but organizers have asked that the walkouts be limited to schools and that unaffiliated protesters don’t join in. If you aren’t part of a school, they’ve asked you wear orange in support instead. So far EMPOWER, the organizing body behind the march, reports 2,500 schools planning walkouts across the country and is sending out toolkits for student leaders and others who want to join.
- Schools are having varying reactions to the walkouts: While many schools are supportive of the walkouts, some are not, and there will likely be news reports of students having to deal with administrators interfering with their protests. In theory, schools can take appropriate action for protests they haven’t sanctioned, but the ACLU has already noted it will be monitoring reaction to protests and will protect students who are punished more harshly for expressing a political opinion.
- It’s also not clear what the political reaction will be: On a national level, Donald Trump has withdrawn promises of supporting stricter gun control regulation in favor of arming teachers, which teacher’s unions have objected strongly to. In Florida, Republican lawmakers were seen by some as deliberately ignoring Parkland survivors, although ultimately Governor Rick Scott signed some gun control legislation. And amid the chaos of the White House firings, lawmakers may simply ignore the kids in favor of dealing with DC scandals.
In fact, it’s likely the walkouts will be met with complete silence from lawmakers. Whether that’s because they’ve got more pressing problems, or because they hope this issue goes away quietly, is up for interpretation. If you believe it’s the latter, there’s some good news: It doesn’t look like anyone is going to stop fighting for gun control anytime soon.
Today, a new wave of voices will enter the gun control fight. Sooner or later, lawmakers will have to deal with them.