Lydia Ringer, 16, a junior at Roosevelt High School in Seattle, holds a sign that reads “NRA — Not Right for America,” March 6, as she attends a rally against gun violence at the Capitol in Olympia. The rally was held on the same day Gov. Inslee was scheduled to sign a bill banning the sale and possession of gun bump-stocks in the state of Washington. (Ted S. Warren/Associated Press)

Lydia Ringer, 16, a junior at Roosevelt High School in Seattle, holds a sign that reads “NRA — Not Right for America,” March 6, as she attends a rally against gun violence at the Capitol in Olympia. The rally was held on the same day Gov. Inslee was scheduled to sign a bill banning the sale and possession of gun bump-stocks in the state of Washington. (Ted S. Warren/Associated Press)

Editorial: Walkouts can keep focus on school safety, firearms

Students should be encouraged in their efforts to press state and national leaders for action.

By The Herald Editorial Board

The nation’s youths and young adults aren’t letting this go.

Students at a number of high schools and even middle schools in Snohomish County are planning to walk out of classes at 10 a.m. Wednesday as part of a national school walkout, protesting gun violence and seeking action by state and national leaders to make schools and communities safer.

Some of the walkouts will be relatively brief, 17 minutes, one minute for each of the 17 victims of the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

More walkouts and protests are coming on April 20, the 19th anniversary of the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado that left 13 dead as well as the two shooters.

Among the walkouts and other protests:

Students and Families Against Gun Violence plan a demonstration at 10 a.m. at the Snohomish County Courthouse Plaza, 3000 Rockerfeller Avenue.

A demonstration, with the hashtag #WillWeBeNext, is planned for 10 a.m. at the Parks Student Union Building at Everett Community College.

Students at Marysville Pilchuck High School, site of the 2014 shooting that left five students dead including the shooter, will walk out for 17 minutes at 10 a.m.

And, students at Kamiak High School, who lost three Kamiak alumni in a shooting at a Mukilteo residence in 2016, plan a half-hour walkout from classes at 10 a.m.

At some schools, such as those in the Marysville School District, students will be excused to participate in on-campus activities. But at other districts, students should be aware that their absence from class can be considered as unexcused. Students should remember that their free speech rights don’t excuse them from the consequences of exercising those rights.

But it’s a good civics lesson in what our rights require of us.

There’s ample reason for dissatisfaction — and protests — over national and state leaders’ responses in the days following the Parkland shooting as well as the years following the shootings at Columbine, Sandy Hook, Marysville Pilchuck and Mukilteo.

A day after a televised meeting at which President Trump appeared to express support for some limited legislation, including raising the age limit from 18 to 21 to buy semi-automatic rifles — such as the AR-15 used in the Parkland shooting — the president met with an NRA official and has since backed off those proposals. Announced Monday, Trump has squelched his support for raising the age limit and is endorsing only a limited fix for background checks but is pressing forward with an ill-advised recommendation to arm teachers and make them responsible for confronting school shooters.

Republican leaders in Congress continue to block votes on legislation, some with bipartisan support, such as strengthening the National Instant Criminal background check system.

And while the Washington Legislature did pass a ban on bump-stocks — the devices that effectively turn semi-automatic firearms into automatic weapons — other legislation, specifically Senate Bill 6620, which would have raised the age to purchase semi-automatic weapons to 21, required state and federal background checks for purchase of those firearms and provided several school safety measures.

Nor did lawmakers give much consideration to legislation sought by Attorney General Bob Ferguson to ban “assault-style” firearms or to legislation sough repeatedly in recent years to require safe storage of firearms in homes with children.

Washington state’s lawmakers have concluded their work for this year, but that doesn’t limit the opportunity of students and others to press their case with legislators — state and national — many of whom will be running for re-election in the Aug. 7 primary and Nov. 6 general election.

The students have our attention and now should have our support to move the issue of safety in our schools and communities from discussion to action.

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