Students come together to fight gun violence

Kendall France holds her sign to advocate for stricter gun laws at Greensboro’s March For Our Lives protest that took place on Saturday, March 24, 2018.//Photo By: Julia Martins De Sa/The Guilfordian

Despite the cold rain and snow, a crowd of participants marched through downtown Greensboro on March 24 as part of the March For Our Lives event that occurred in 800 cities across the nation.

The Greensboro march was organized entirely by students from local high schools in response to the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed.

“Honestly, I was incredibly shocked when I saw the shooting in Florida,” said Dominic Patafie, a home-schooled senior and the communications organizer for the event. “Everyone our age, everyone in high school has grown up in the era of school shootings. We were all born after Columbine, so I felt like it was really important to get involved and to bring people out to march.”

Attendees of the march wanted to change gun laws and vote out politicians who support the NRA. Most also felt negatively about the idea of arming school teachers.

“I don’t think giving Mrs. Jones a glock is going make a difference,” said Wes Nunn, a protester from Greensboro. Nunn was carrying a sign that said, “Give our teachers resources, not guns.”

Patafie expressed similar sentiments.

“Now they want more guns in our schools. They want to arm our teachers,” said Patafie. “I’m sorry, but giving guns to our teachers is probably one of the stupidest ideas I have ever heard.”

Other attendees stated their interest in banning assault weapons.

“It’s time this crap stopped,” said John Bryce. John and his wife Betsy both have concealed carry permits, which they say are for protection. However, they don’t believe that anyone should be able to own assault weapons.

“We are totally against assault weapons,” said Bryce. “Nobody should have an assault weapon. Nobody.”

After marching from the plaza, attendees gathered in LeBauer Park to listen to speeches, songs and even slam poetry from several organizers and speakers.

“We refuse to live under the continuous threat of gun violence in our schools,” said Nico Gleason, a first-year at Grimsley High School and one of the organizers of the march, during a speech at the rally. “The time to talk is over, and the time for action is now.”

Organizers Anne Joy Cahill-Swenson, a first-year at Grimsley High School and team coordinator for the march, and Claire Haile, a first-year at Northwest Guilford High School and business coordinator for the march, also spoke at the rally.

“We, the youth of Greensboro, believe we deserve to be safe in our schools, and we are committed to making sure we are,” said Haile.

Organizers were also joined on stage by Steven Buccini, a candidate for North Carolina House seat 59, which represents much of the Greensboro area. Buccini told a story about the first time he saw a high-powered rifle being fired, tearing through a milk jug full of water.

“Now every time I read about that mass shooting, I think about that milk jug. And I think about how it disappeared in an instant, and I think about how if instead of that milk jug, I was watching the rifle be fired at a human head or a human torso,” said Buccini. “I realized the true power of weapons available to private citizens and told myself, ‘Enough is enough.’

“Each of you is here today because you had a moment where you said, ‘Enough is enough.’”

The protest organizers also took time to criticize several politicians who support the NRA. Organizers directed blame toward U.S. Congressman Ted Budd and U.S. Senator Richard Burr.

“They may not want to hear us, but Richard Burr and Ted Budd, they can hear us right now,” said Patafie. “It’s about sending a message to Richard Burr and Ted Budd that they don’t work for the NRA. They work for us.” 

Many participants applauded the ability of the younger generation to organize against gun violence. 

“I totally admire these young people and the strength and courage and initiative they have taken on because the adults have let them down,” said Hallie Smith, a participant at the march.

Bryce also expressed his support of the organizers.

“We want to support all these kids,” said Bryce. “This is amazing what they’ve done.”

Gleason emphasized that the time for action is now.

“You know you must take action into your own hands when the slaughter of elementary school children does not spark change,” said Gleason.