Thousands of students, teenagers, children, parents and teachers marched from the West Bank Park in downtown Columbus to the Ohio Statehouse as part of a sweeping movement. They marched for their lives, for others and for those who have already died at the hands of a gun. They marched to end gun violence and demand action from state and national lawmakers.
More than 5,000 people were estimated to be at the Columbus March For Our Lives, one of the roughly 800 protests that took place throughout the country Saturday. The march in Ohio’s capital city began at 10 a.m. and lasted through the afternoon, with most participants leaving around 3 p.m., after five hours of walking, chanting and protesting.
Chants like “The NRA has got to go,” and “This is what democracy looks like,” echoed through the masses on the crowd’s half-mile walk to the statehouse.
Following the deadly mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that claimed the lives of 17 students and teachers on Feb. 14, national outcry prompted the organization of similar marches across the United States. In the aftermath of the tragedy, those students whose classmates and teachers were killed have taken to social media and orchestrated action in communities across the country, calling on citizens and politicians to reform the nation’s gun laws.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, attended the march with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Connie Schultz, who also is his wife, and voiced his support for the protesters and students voicing their outrage for current gun laws.
“Students are going to change the world this year. Congress won’t do its job, the legislature won’t do its job, and young people aren’t going to give up,” Brown said in an interview with The Lantern. “We’re counting on Ohio State students to vote [in November]. We’re counting on young voters everywhere to come out in larger numbers than ever before and change the country.”
The march drew considerable support from Ohio State students.
“The Parkland shooting made me realize that [students are] just at a breaking point with school shootings and that we need our leaders to step up and create gun reform that will keep our schools safe and make sure that guns aren’t falling into the hands of people that will do harm,” said Aaron Dobres, a second-year in accounting. “If our leaders don’t step up, no one else is quite able to affect change so directly.”
Kirby Dearth, a third-year public affairs, said young people taking part in political reform is something he said does not typically occur.
“Traditionally, the youngest generations have been the most politically complacent, and that is not the case for this generation and the millennial generation. It’s really empowering because most public policy is done by older people, so I think we have a good future ahead of us,” Dearth said.
Not all those in attendance were in support of the so-called “common sense” demonstration. Chris Dorr a member of an pro-gun group, Ohio Gun Owners, walked alongside marchers in a shirt proclaiming “Defend the Second,” referring to the Second Amendment.
“We see this as a complete attack on our gun rights,” he said. “They want to pass bills like Senate Bill 260, which would take away the firearm that I use to defend myself, the firearm that my wife uses to defend our six kids, and we’re completely not OK with that.”
Ohio Gun Owners held a gun rights rally March 13 at the Ohio Statehouse.
Ohio Senate Bill 260 is sponsored by two Democratic state senators and would ban automatic and semi-automatic guns with magazines holding more than 10 rounds. Other gun control reforms have been proposed in the state legislature, but it is yet to become clear whether or not legislative change will occur.
While the future of gun legislation is unclear, there seems to be one message many Americans – Democrat, Moderate or Republican — agree on: school is not the place for violence.
“Schools should be a place of peace and education,” said Hannah Ladaika, a first-year in environmental policy, “not of worrying every second if you are going to be safe or not.”