Mass. students to walk out to protest gun violence

State House News Service
Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Following the lead of student activists who have carried the flag for gun control since the deadly school shooting last month in Parkland, Fla., high schoolers across Massachusetts plan to join the chorus of voices calling for tougher gun laws Wednesday at events in Boston and Springfield.

Coinciding with a “national school walkout” organized by an arm of the group that led the January 2017 women’s marches, high school students plan to leave their classrooms at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Some students plan to then call for action at the State House, while high schoolers from some of Massachusetts’s largest cities plan to use the day to call attention to the gun violence issues that affect their urban school communities.

Students from Boston, Worcester, Springfield and Holyoke are expected to rally for an hour outside the Springfield headquarters of Smith & Wesson to demand a meeting with the gun manufacturer’s chief executive to discuss how the manufacturer can “help reduce gun violence.” The students also want to make sure that the gun violence issues they say are unique to their communities are part of the debate around gun laws.

“Students are working hard to center what young people in cities across Massachusetts would like to see and what they want looks different from what the students in Parkland may want,” Tara Parrish, the director of the Pioneer Valley Project who is organizing Wednesday’s rally, said. “It’s a different angle when you talk about cities and cities without a lot of resources.”

Parrish used Springfield as an example; she said schools there might be the safest place a student visits that day. She and other organizers said some Springfield schools already use metal detectors and that there is no desire in communities like Springfield for teachers to be armed.

“Any real solutions to address gun violence must include acknowledgement of the unique characteristics and needs of urban communities. There’s a widespread call for gun control reforms that again and again focus on the needs of suburban communities, while making those of us in cities invisible,” Rev. David Lewis Sr. from Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Springfield, said in a statement. “Students in Springfield and in many urban communities across the country don’t agree with current calls for metal detectors and arming teachers. Here, schools are among the safest places in Springfield for young people, a city with three of the poorest zip codes in Massachusetts and nine of the state’s poorest schools.”

Parrish said the students hope to secure a meeting with Smith & Wesson CEO P. James Debney to ask what role gun manufacturers see themselves playing in improving safety nationwide.

“We want to talk to Smith & Wesson about how they are prepared to be a part of the solution, which includes shouldering the costs that our communities are bearing – both the human costs and the financial costs – of what their product does,” she said.

Smith & Wesson did not respond to an inquiry from the News Service on Tuesday morning.