They came in crowds of ten or more. Slowly, at first. But soon the steps of the University of Redlands administration building were crowded with more than a hundred students.
As President Trump backed down from his gun control promises this week, which fell far
short of the hopes of many gun control advocates, students in Redlands and across America staged a school walkout on Wednesday to show support for gun control reform on the one month anniversary of the Valentine’s Day shooting in Florida.
“Now is the time for our voices to be heard and make change,” sophomore Megan Wilenski announced through a megaphone.
Willenski explained the purpose of the walkout, as well as the national March for Our Lives protest planned for the 24th, is to urge Congress to pass a “comprehensive and effective” bill addressing the call for stricter gun control. Wilenski also voiced her opposition to the NRA, and noted the “many companies” who have “stood with” her and her fellow classmates, cutting their ties with the organization.
Students voiced their discontent with the current state of gun violence in schools and in the US in general with fervor.
“I’m out here because I want to see change,” said sophomore Anthony Gutierrez. “I feel like these are peaceful ways to show that we are serious.”
“I’m tired of seeing my fellow classmates across the nation getting shot,” said senior Chelsea Fomin. “I’m tired of worrying in class, while I should be learning, that I might get shot.”
Several students stated that the United States had the most mass shootings of most or any other developed country, which is true, though it should be noted that the U.S. is also one of the most populated countries of the developed nations, save for China. Regardless, the frequency of mass shootings in the U.S. remains one of the highest of the developed countries.
After a moment of silence in which sophomore Javier Garcia read the names of the victims of the Parkland shooting, Academic Vice President Kathy Ogren addressed the crowd of students from the bottom of the steps.
“We stand in support of every present and future Bulldog participating in peaceful protest like this today,” Ogren said. “Especially this one, on this day of the national school walkout to say ‘enough’ to gun violence in our schools.”
Ogren told the crowd that three of the deadliest American shootings in modern history has taken place in the last five months. She took a moment to remind students of shootings outside U.S. campuses as well.
“If you are from this region or you had a First Year Seminar like mine,” Ogren said, “almost everyone knew people in Los Vegas, for example. These events touch us very closely.”
Addressing Wilenski’s call for Congress to act, Ogren said:
“We’ve expressed empathy, but we know that as the violence accelerates, that simply cannot be enough. The sheer frequency and scale of murders indicates an American epidemic. We are in no less than a public health crisis.”
To the student organizers at the University of Redlands, the walkout should serve as a catalyst for action directed at Capitol Hill.
“Contact your senators,” said Fomin. “There is a number that you could text (RESIST to 50409). Write what you want to say to your senators right in the text message, and they’ll send it to them in a fax. That’s the best thing that we can do at this point.”
“Go to [March for Our Lives] and educate yourself on your politicians,” said senior Kenai Class. “Vote for the ones that align with gun control.”
As shown by the participation of Ogren and the wife of the University President, Nancy Kuncl, standing in solidarity with the students (President Ralph Kuncl was away on business), the walkout at the University of Redlands was supported by several of its faculty and community members. The participation of Bulldogs and their professors was a sign of support for the thousands of high schoolers who walked out to advocate for a new age of gun control policy.
Photos contributed by Redlands Bulldog photographer, Haile West.