In the wake of the February 14 mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school that left 17 dead, thousands of students across the nation have taken part in organized “walkouts” to urge lawmakers to take action to end gun violence. Hatcher Group intern Jessica Kapoor, a senior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Bethesda, Md., shares her experience participating in one of these walkouts:

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Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School senior & Hatcher Group Intern Jessica Kapoor

On February 21, I walked outside my school to see nearly 200 students standing with signs in their hands, ready to march to the United States Capitol and call on Congress to put an end to senseless gun violence. We walked down East-West Highway in Bethesda, Md., hearing the honks of the people supporting our cause and fighting with us. I had recently watched the video of the Columbine school shooting in my Peace Studies class, but until Parkland, the thought that this could actually happen to us in school, one of the places where you’re supposed to be safest, never fully hit me. This issue was so near and dear to so many of the people marching because to some extent each of us realized this could have been us. Luckily, it wasn’t yet, and we could do something to make sure that it never would be.

When we arrived at Union Station, we were joined by hundreds of other students from Montgomery County high schools. There were newscasters with cameras and voice recorders hoping to get interviews from some of the students involved in a national walkout on just a typical Wednesday morning. After meeting at Union Station, we marched united to the Capitol. When we got there, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) came out to protest and draw attention to the undeniable need for gun control in the United States. Rep. Raskin spoke about his efforts to pass comprehensive gun safety laws during his time in the Maryland Senate, and how lawmakers in Florida and other states could do the same. He reminded us that change takes time, but that we have the ability to make a difference if we continue fighting for what we believe in. While listening to Rep. Raskin, I looked around me and saw how truly impactful a student-led protest could be. We were getting our message out nationwide, being broadcast and heard by politicians, even eventually bothering the White House staff because they could hear us chanting for change.

On Monday, February 26th, we met with survivors of the Parkland school shooting at Montgomery Blair High School alongside a few of the students who helped plan and execute our walkout. They told us how important we are – as students and as young people –  to this movement, and strongly encouraged us to register to vote. Their strongest message was that we cannot let anyone forget because this has happened too often and cannot continue.

No more young people can be taken away from us because of the irreconcilable obsession with firearms in this country. In 2018 alone there have already been 17 shootings in schools. One year before the February 14 shooting, Parkland was named the safest city in Florida. If this could happen there, it could really happen anywhere. Enough is enough.

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