LAS VEGAS (AP) — More than 1,000 Nevada students walked out of classes at schools from every corner of the state on Wednesday to mark the one-month anniversary of a shooting at a high school in Florida and urge lawmakers to act to curb gun violence.
In Las Vegas, home to the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, more than 350 students rallied on the steps of the city’s oldest high school with signs reading “Enough is Enough,” ”Save the Future, Not Your Guns,” and chanted, “NRA, Stay Away.”
Tanya Abarico, a Las Vegas Academy of the Arts junior, remembered the 58 people who died at an outdoor Las Vegas Strip music concert on Oct. 1, and said students want policies and reform, not thoughts and prayers.
“It is our lives that are being affected,” she said. “We never want to know what it’s like to hear gunshots at our school and to have to run and hide for our lives.”
Academy student body President Darian Fluker invoked shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012 and the Feb. 14 shooting that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
“We said it after Columbine, we said it after Sandy Hook, and we’re now saying it after Parkland,” Fluker said. “The change that we have needed to see hasn’t come … but I’m optimistic that it’s on its way.”
In Reno, hundreds of Wooster High students chanted, “We want peace,” as they marched several blocks to a U.S. Post Office to deliver letters they wrote to their members of Congress demanding action to combat gun violence.
Senior student Ann Snelgrove said politicians who are influenced by the gun lobby and oppose expanded background checks for gun buyers are on the wrong side of history.
“Can’t you hear the children scream?” Snelgrove asked during a speech outside the post office.
More than 100 of the students jammed inside the post office to mail their letters while carrying signs that read, “Stop protecting guns and start protecting kids,” and “The NRA kills kids.”
Wooster freshman Lily Crano carried a sign referencing the mass shooting in Florida that read, “They could be us.”
“If they don’t hear us now, they’re deaf,” she told The Associated Press.
The protests hit close to home for a number of students who were attending a middle school in northern Nevada when tragedy struck their campus in 2013.
Sparks High School Principal Kevin Carroll said some of his seniors were students at nearby Sparks Middle School when a seventh-grader opened fire on the school playground more than four years ago.
“I think it definitely has more of an impact on them,” he told the Reno Gazette Journal. “Seeing this right now, it is kind of heartening.”
Jose Reyes fatally shot Sparks Middle School teacher Michael Landsberry and injured two classmates before turning the gun on himself on Oct. 21, 2013.
An unspecified threat at another northern Nevada high school kept the vast majority of its students from participating in Wednesday’s walkouts.
The Douglas County sheriff’s office says a stay-put order was issued at Douglas High School in Gardnerville south of Carson City on shortly after an unsubstantiated threat was received at about 9:30 a.m. Deputies and state troopers patrolled the campus and surrounding area before they determined there was no danger and the order was lifted by 11 a.m.
Three students managed to make their way out of the school and briefly joined more than a dozen adults who rallied with signs outside the school. An officer escorted them back inside the school, which plans to reschedule its demonstration for another day, The Record Courtier reported.
One of the biggest protests Wednesday was at Reno’s Swope Middle School, where all 700-plus students walked out of class at 10 a.m. and filled the back track field, according to the Gazette Journal.
North of Reno, students at North Valleys High School released 17 balloons on the football field and held a moment of silence lasting 17 seconds in memory of the 17 victims in the Feb. 14 Florida shooting. Hundreds also walked out of class in Carson City, at Elko High School in rural northeast Nevada and around Lake Tahoe at Truckee and South Lake Tahoe, California.
A demonstration was also planned at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where Annette Magnus, leader of the statewide progressive group Battle Born Progress, criticized state Attorney General Adam Laxalt for not enacting a gun buyer screening law that won voter approval in November 2016.
Laxalt hosted a conference Wednesday for law enforcement agents, security experts, educators and school administrators to talk about ensuring school safety and responding to threats.
“By working together and creating a forum to share thoughts and experiences, we can help prevent crises and respond effectively to disasters as they unfold,” he said in a statement.
Sandoval hosted a meeting Monday with state and local school officials about campus and student safety.