MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD
March for Our Lives participants say it helped raise issue of urban gun violence
EAST ROCKHILL » In the month since the March 14 National School Walkout, organizers of the Pennridge portion of the walkout are showing their support for fellow students serving their Saturday morning detentions for taking part in the walkout and attempting to encourage people to make their voices heard and use the power of the ballot box, three of the Pennridge 225 students said in a recent interview.
“We’ve been meeting with some politicians and candidates for local office, talking to them about gun safety legislation and urban violence,” Anna Sophie Tinneny said.
The addition of urban violence to the discussion came from taking part in the March 24 March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., the Pennridge students said.
“It’s made it a lot more of an issue about gun violence in America over school shootings in America,” Joey Merkel said. “It was just a realignment for what students like us really are fighting for.”
The initial impetus for the National School Walkout and the following March for Our Lives had focused on the Feb. 14 killing of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
About 225 Pennridge students took part in the walkout after having been warned that leaving school without permission would result in a Saturday detention. The school also held an indoor remembrance ceremony at the same time as the walkout, with about 800 students taking part in the remembrance ceremony.
Gun violence isn’t just something that happens elsewhere, Tinneny said.
“It’s very present even
“It’s not some distant, far-off thing that you can see on the news and then turn it off. It’s happening in our communities, and you can’t just turn that off.”
— Anna Sophie Tinneny, Pennridge student
in our own communities,” she said, noting the October 2016 shooting in Perkasie in which 2016 Pennridge graduate Iziah Ramon-Lewis was killed and four teens, including three Pennridge students, were implicated in the shooting.
“It’s not some distant, far off thing that you can see on the news and then turn it off,” Tinneny said. “It’s happening in our communities and you can’t just turn that off.”
Jayson Badal said he’s learned a lot and grown from being part of Pennridge 225.
“When we started this, we were just fighting for what we believed in. We just wanted to have our voices heard, and then it just started this whole avalanche of things,” he said.
The Washington march exposed him to real civic engagement
and how to peacefully protest, he said.
“It was really impactful on me because I think it taught me how to engage in peaceful civil discourse and have a conversation with people who disagree with you,” Badal said.
It’s important for people to let their representatives know what they think and to vote, no matter what side of the issues they stand on, the students said.
“A lot of the movement is about making people aware that voting can make a difference,” Merkel said. “This is an issue that needs to be addressed as soon as possible, and if our current congressmen aren’t going to do it, then we have a passionate voice that is going to advocate people that can do it.”
Social media has helped organize and strengthen the effort, he said.
“This movement is what it is because we have been able to coordinate our movements with schools all across the country, all
across the world, really, to make sure that we’re all in sync,” Tinneny said, “and that’s why it’s been so powerful.”
The students’ goal is to protect people and save lives, she said.
That includes banning assault rifles, limiting the amount of ammunition that can be purchased and making sure that “individuals who have shown signs of violence do not get their hands on a weapon to harm anyone,” including themselves, she said.
The biggest voice against the students is the NRA, Merkel said.
“At the end of the day, all they want is gun sales,” he said.
“It’s frustrating how they’re able to twist people’s minds into thinking that really they’re doing it for their own rights, but they’re just doing it for the money,” he said, “and they couldn’t care less who has the guns.”
Although many people think the group is advocating taking away their guns, “that’s so not what we want to do,” Badal said. “We just want very logical gun control.”
“People who have guns, we want them to be the right people with guns,” Merkel said.
The argument that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun doesn’t fly, he said.
“That whole argument just doesn’t hold up if it’s possible to make laws ensuring that the bad guy doesn’t get the gun in the first place, and that’s really all we want to do,” Merkel said. “The way to stop gun violence in America isn’t with more gun violence. It’s by ensuring that the bad people don’t need to be stopped by the good people in the first place.”
“We are not trying to destroy the Second Amendment or repeal it or anything like that. We are only trying to improve it,” Tinnenny said.
“The Second Amendment to me, and to I think most people, is not getting an AR15 and shooting up a school. The Second Amendment is about protection,” she said, “and we want people to be able to have guns for their protection if they so choose, just not weapons of mass murder.”
The students said they knew they would receive Saturday morning detentions for taking part in the walkout and are not arguing against the detentions.
Tinneny said she expected the Pennridge walkout would receive some attention but not as much as it has.
“I definitely didn’t think that it would be a national conversation,” she said. “I didn’t expect us to have the social media following that we have.”
The video of the students sitting in the first detention with linked arms and wearing lists of the Parkland victims names has had more than 3 million views and been retweeted by celebrities and activists, she said.
Video of a lie-in at the April 7 detention was viewed more than 100,000 times within a day of being posted.
There continue to be protests as new groups of students serve their detention, but each week brings a fresh take on how that protest is occurring, she said.
“We want to keep expanding our platform, keep the conversation growing,” Tinneny said. “There will be a different protest, equally as respectful, equally as meaningful, for each detention.”
“The Second Amendment to me, and to I think most people, is not getting an AR-15 and shooting up a school.”
— Anna Sophie Tinneny, Pennridge student
Joey Merkel, left Anna Sophie Tinneny and Jayson Badal are three of the Pennridge 225 students. The three also took part in the March 24 Walk for Our Lives in Washington, D.C.