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Michigan high schoolers join national school walkout against gun violence

Ann Arbor Community High students Suephia Saam and Catherine Nicoli protest gun violence in schools in front of City Hall.
Catherine Shaffer
Michigan Radio
Ann Arbor Community High students Suephia Saam and Catherine Nicoli protest gun violence in schools in front of City Hall.

Michigan high school students participated in a nationwide school walkout to protest gun violence on the nineteenth anniversary of the Columbine school shooting Friday.

Students organized events at schools throughout the state. At Ann Arbor Pioneer High School, about two hundred students walked out of class and attended a student-led rally in the football stadium. Student speakers demanded tougher gun legislation, and blasted lawmakers for failing to pass popular, "common sense" measures like universal background checks. 

Most of the students participating in the school walkout had not been born yet at the time of the Columbine massacre, in which two students murdered twelve of their classmates and a teacher.

"And following the horrible tragedy that happened at Columbine, Americans all expected there to be preventative measures taken to stop these shootings from continuing, that this event would not be repeated. However these measures never occurred," said Pioneer student Henry Taylor in his address at the Pioneer rally. He targeted Republican lawmakers and the National Rifle Association for failing to enact gun control legislation. 

Following the walkout, Ann Arbor students gathered in front of City Hall. Suephia Saam is a student at Ann Arbor's Community High School. She said that at first, she wasn't too shocked after 17 students were killed at Parkland High School.

"The more I heard about it and the more I thought about it, the more I realized how messed up it is that people are afraid to go to school," Saam said. 

A common frustration expressed by the student protesters was that legislators have ignored the will of the people in failing to pass even the most popular gun control measures. State Representative Yousef Rabhi made an appearance at the City Hall event. He said that at least some legislators are paying attention.

"There are some very common sense proposals out there," Rabhi said.

For example, he pointed out that in Michigan, background checks are required for handguns, but you can currently buy a long gun in Michigan without a background check.

"You can go to the store and buy an AR-15 without a background check," he explained. "Those are common sense pieces of legislation that can really change the game when it comes to violence in schools." 

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