Local students join walkouts to protest gun violence

Hayfield students listening to speakers.
Hayfield students listening to speakers. (Courtesy of Ryan McElveen)
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Like many students around the nation, the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida deeply shook Edison junior Maggie Landis.

Landis, 17, said the images of students running from the building, parents crying, and the gruesome aftermath of the attack moved her to do something to help prevent more school shootings from happening.

I was so devastated,” Landis said. “Parkland definitely solidified it for me … I felt so horrible for all these students.”

Landis was one of more than 1,000 students from Richmond Highway-area schools who walked out of class on Wednesday morning to protest gun violence and honor the students killed in the Parkland shooting. They joined with tens of thousands of their peers in a nationwide demonstration that began at 10 a.m. and included a 17-minute tribute to the 17 students killed in Florida.

Between 400-500 students at Edison took part in the walkout, according to an email sent by principal Pamela Ellison Brumfield. Many carried homemade signs, and 17 students lined up one by one on the track as student leaders read the names of the Parkland victims. 

The size of the crowd exceeded Landis’s expectations, and surpassed the Feb. 21 walkout held at the school, Landis said. 

At 10 we all sat up and left our classes and walked in the direction of the track,” Landis said. “I saw waves of students coming out of the building. It was incredibly humbling.”

Students from West Potomac, Hayfield Secondary, Walt Whitman Middle School and Carl Sandburg Middle School also took part in the walkouts. At West Potomac, about 450 students participated, and about 400 took part at Walt Whitman, according emails sent to parents by principals at both schools. School board member Ryan McElveen joined the Hayfield students at their rally.

All of the principals said in their emails to parents that students left and reentered the schools in an orderly and timely fashion. 

State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-40), who has made fighting gun violence one of his signature issues while in the legislature, made an appearance with the West Potomac students after being invited earlier this week.

Ebbin, who received 43 letters from students in the days leading up to today’s walkout, applauded the students for taking action on the issue. 

“They’re obviously engaged and interested and wanting to do more,” Ebbin said. “We’re seeing a critical mass of kids who are eager to vote … and eager to hold their legislators accountable.”

Ebbin, who is a a founding member of American State Legislators for Gun Violence Prevention, sponsored bills this legislative session to ban bump stocks and make it illegal to carry a loaded firearm while intoxicated. Both measures were killed by Senate Republicans.

Ebbin said the walkouts and other actions by young activists could be signaling a change of fortune for gun control legislation, however.   

“I feel like the reinforcements have arrived,” Ebbin said. “They are going to make a difference. I think they can break through the ideological gridlock.”

This story has been updated to include that students at Carl Sandburg Middle School participated in the walkouts.