MAK­ING THEIR VOICES HEARD

March for Our Lives par­tic­i­pants say it helped raise is­sue of ur­ban gun vi­o­lence

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Bob Keeler bkeeler@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @by­bob­keeler on Twit­ter

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

BOB KEELER — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

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.

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