MARYSVILLE – Marysville-Pilchuck students no longer are going to keep quiet about school shootings.
“No more violence, end the silence,” M-P students Kyla Morrison, CeCe Watson, Olivya Cerdino and others shouted repeatedly Saturday. Those three helped organize a local rally where about 100 people gathered at Asbery Field then walked a few blocks around town as part of the national March for our Lives.
“I used to be so upset I couldn’t talk about it,” Morrison said. “We’ve now made a choice to have a voice.”
Signs participants made said things like, “Defend Kids Not Gun” and “I Go To School To Get A’s, not PTSD.”
They also shouted chants like: “What does Democracy look like? This is what democracy looks like.”
While many of the protesters were obviously anti-gun by the signs they carried, many others, led by the students, realized the problem of school shootings is more than just guns.
Yocelin Ochoa of M-P was the first speaker.
“Enough is enough,” she said, adding they were marching for the school’s own tragedy Oct. 24, 2014, when a student killed four others before shooting himself in the school’s cafeteria.
“We are no longer going to keep quiet about it,” she said, adding kids are leading the way because they should never have to witness such a tragedy.
“We’re no longer, ‘Just Kids,’” she said. “We’re not learning history. We’re making it.”
She said they were marching on the cold, rainy day because they should not have to witness death in a place where they are supposed to be safe.
“We’re not asking, we’re demanding change,” she said. “We kids are fed up.”
Watson also was fired up. She blamed, “Negligent lawmakers who did not protect us” for school shootings. “How can they take NRA blood money over our cries and screams?” she asked.
“We can regulate guns properly,” she added.
Watson also shared her horror of the M-P shooting. She said students were in lockdown and then led to the gym. Watson said the wait was terrifying.
“I was afraid it was my best friend or my brother,” she said.
M-P teacher Jim Strickland talked about access to guns being too easy. He applauded stores that are limiting sales of guns to people 21 and older. He also questioned why people need training to operate a car but not guns.
Looking back at their school shooting, he said, “We’re devastated. It’s supposed to be a sanctuary for our kids.”
Former M-P Principal Rob Lowry said more should happen in the area of mental health.
He said many businesses use an ACE assessment to understand their employees. He said that same assessment could be given to students. He said he imagines many school shooters would have certain scores on the test, and if a student had a similar score he or she could be given all kinds of support. As for his former students, he said: “Holy cow. I bet society is surprised how articulate high school students are.”
M-P was not the only school involved. Taylor Knocke of Marysville Getchell talked about the need for common sense gun control. She said there is no reason people who want guns shouldn’t have to have background checks. “Be responsible with that right,” she said of the 2nd Amendment.
Knocke added that people with mental illness shouldn’t be able to obtain a gun.
Sen. John McCoy of Tulalip urged those attending to, “Keep your voices up.”
He said he would keep working on gun control legislation. He didn’t vote for one bill in the recent legislative session because lawmakers “kept watering it down.”
Rachel Gruenwald of Shoreline has been working on the issue since she was shot 23 years ago as a 15-year-old at Garfield High School in Seattle.
“I was screaming into the wind,” she said about how no one would listen. “Nothing changed.”
Gruenwald said the National Rifle Association is very powerful. “Take the inch, not the mile,” she advised. “Responsible gun owners won’t mind some restrictions.”
She said schools are scary. They have to practice drills as if an active shooter was on campus. “That’s leaves a scar,” she said.
To have real change, Gruenwald advised people to keep protesting. “Turn that spark into a flame,” she said.