G Star School of the Arts students participate in walkout of school in protest of gun violence Wednesday February 21, 2018 in West Palm Beach, Florida. The students stood in front of the school and observed 17 minutes of silence for each of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting victims. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

On Saturday, students from Ohio State, along with students from across the state will gather in West Bank Park at 11 a.m. to march to the Ohio Statehouse to protest gun violence in the March for Our Lives, a national event organized in effort to demand action regarding gun reform and gun violence.

The Columbus March for Our Lives is a sister march of the national movement calling for gun reform, brought forth by survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, which left 17 dead in Parkland, Florida, in February. The Columbus student-led event was planned over three weeks by students from Ohio State, other universities and high schools throughout the Central Ohio area.  

“We are all with the Parkland students, each and every single one of them,” said Dylan Carlson-Sirvent, a student at Upper Arlington High School and the head of the march’s student-leader committee. “It’s about something bigger than just us, it’s about a whole country, it’s about our lives.”

“We are discussing together, we are standing together, we are working together, rather than each individual person feeling like they are by themselves,” he said. “Every single part of this has been because of the teamwork and community that we have built together.”

Flora Hong, a third-year in psychology and public affairs, said while politicians have contacted the group to speak at the event, the voices being featured will only be of those who have experienced gun violence first-hand, or who have lost family or friends at the hands of gun violence.

“What the students decided was that we didn’t want [politicians to speak],” she said. “It’s time for politicians and representatives to be listening to students, rather than them giving their campaign pitch.”

While they will not be asked to speak, local representatives are expected to attend the event, Hong said

“As much as we would want this to be fixed without going through any sort of political process, this is an inherently political issue,” she said. “I hope that the outcome of this is that some sort of legislation ends up on the floor of the Senate and the House of Ohio, and that even if nothing passes, that at least voters have a record of where their elected officials stand.”

Hong said the march will focus not only on school shootings, but also gun violence as a broad issue, including violence in communities and how it can affect survivors.  

Dylan Beltz, a second-year in ecological engineering, said as the event’s research committee, he has spent time working to find a legislative solution the students can agree upon that will help reduce gun violence

“What I want the most is for a dialogue to be started, where people are actually listening, he said.  “We’re not just talking past each other, at the end of the day, it’s not about who is right — It’s about the issue being solved.”  

Beltz said the Columbus March for Our Lives group is working very hard to ensure the views being put forward remain unbiased and bipartisan.
“We all want the same end goal, even if the way we want to accomplish it is very different,” he said. “We all want this problem to not be a problem anymore.”

Working with students from across counties and districts, Carlson-Sirvent said his responsibility for March for Our Lives is to contact students at other high schools to let them know about the event.

He said what will make the march successful is if it reaches a lot of people in a meaningful way, creating a community centered on addressing this issue.

“It’s not about what one person is doing, it’s not about becoming famous. It’s about all of us working together,” he said. “School shootings are only one of the consequences from this problem that, at the core, affects every single citizen in this nation.”