MARYSVILLE – Students in Marysville waved signs on State Avenue and staged a rally in Comeford Park to declare that now is the time to talk about gun violence, and not allow one more child to be shot in a school.
Organized by 16-year-old Marysville Getchell High School junior Bailey Thoms and her friends, they wore t-shirts with red targets on the front and the question, “Are we next?” emblazoned on the back. “I don’t know everything there is to know about gun laws, the Constitution, or mental health, but what I do know is that we’re scared, we’re angry, and we want to make a difference,” Thoms said.
“We’re fed up; we’re done,” she said, to cheers from about 80 people at the Rotary Pavilion March 3. They waved signs with slogans including: “Enough,” “More love, less hate,” “Make America Think Again” and “One child is worth more than all the guns on Earth.”
Thoms was 13 when a freshman at Marysville-Pilchuck shot five students in the cafeteria, killing four before turning the gun on himself. Thoms knew one of the victims, Zoe Galasso.
After the latest tragedy when 17 people died Feb. 14 in the shooting rampage at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., she said it was time to make a difference. She and friends Mikala Dalton, Jael Kilroy, Julia Bartolone and Pauline Bordon in U.S. History teacher Marjorie Serge’s class began making signs for the rally.
“It’s not our job to know how to end the violence,” Thoms said. “It’s not our job to make the laws or even vote for them. It is our job to go to school, to learn and get an education. And, It’s our job to help build a better future for me, myself, my classmates.”
Students didn’t just use the opportunity to denounce gun violence – they offered ideas to curb it.
Increases in gun restrictions, a ban on automatic rifles, safety courses for gun owners every two years, metal detectors in schools, annual mental health screenings and an end to bullying and hate were a few ideas mentioned. Students repeatedly said that they are not anti-gun.
The students had plenty of support at the rally.
Ethan Martin, a junior at MG, said he believes the solution is metal detectors in schools, more experienced security and more- stringent gun laws.
“Students shouldn’t be scared to go to school,” Martin said. “I’m just trying to graduate, man.”
So is classmate Lily Nichols. She said she is focused more on keeping guns out of the hands of people with mental health issues, and that has to be part of the public dialogue. A mentally-ill person should not be able to buy a gun at a gun show, and go anywhere they want with it.
“I just want us to stand up for what we believe in because if we don’t no one else will – nothing will change,” Nichols said.
“In six months I’m going to be able to vote,” she said. “I feel so strongly about this, and I will do anything I can to help change. And I will fight with anyone, and I will go hard and won’t stop fighting until there is a change.”
Andrew Thill, a senior at M-P, came out to snap photos of the event.
“I believe this is a good cause, and I want to be here to support it with these people who are my good friends,” Thill said. “I just think it’s really terrible, but I really think the best thing we can do is to move forward and make sure we stop all this violence that is happening.”
Fighting back tears, MG student Taylor Knokey recalled how she was sad and shocked as a sixth-grader returning to her hotel room on her mom’s wedding day to see reports on TV of the Sandy Hook shootings. “I’m so glad that everyone is here, because this is how we change things,” Knokey said.
“It starts here; it starts with us,” she said. “It starts with every single group of people that are gathering now all over the country who are fighting to make a change because we know this is not right. This is unacceptable.”