Student activism helping to shape gun debate

Michigan

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Two Michigan high school seniors are leading the charge on both sides of the gun debate.

For Ellie Lancaster, it was watching the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida take their fight for change to Washington D.C. that inspired her to organize something.

“It wasn’t up to adults this time to do something. As a 17 year old, I was like this is something that I have to do as a young person and someone who cares about this and cares about my life,” she explained.

Lancaster, now 18, and a friend worked with administrators to plan a walkout on March 14 as part of the national movement. Although the school district approved the plans, Lancaster says this was student-led.

She also took a lead role in getting students out for the national “March for Our Lives” in Grand Rapids on March 24. She compared the reaction to what students like her are doing today to how adults reacted to anti-Vietnam War protests in the 1960s.

“They were saying well they’re just kids, they don’t know anything and they can’t do anything. I think the exact same thing is happening now, only the people who were teenagers then are shouting it at us now,” Lancaster said.  

Despite that criticism, Lancaster plans to take her newfound interest in activism into her future and organize a Students Demand Action chapter in Grand Rapids. She also hopes to get more people her age registered to vote.

A student in New Mexico created a Stand for the Second movement as a response to the renewed calls for gun legislation.

Zach Bell, a senior at Grand Ledge High School, took notice and thought it was important to stand up for his second amendment rights too.  

“I was like hey, OK, we’re doing this guys,” he said of organizing a walkout at his school.

The school was supportive of his plan, and Bell was pleased with how many of his classmates got involved. He also dealt with some negative reactions.

“It [was] just people not knowing anything about it. They were just upset because people who support the Second Amendment were actually using their voice instead of just people who don’t like the Second Amendment,” he said.

The walkout organized by Bell at Grand Ledge High school was one of the only well-attended Stand for the Second walkouts in the state. He attributes it to the fact that he put himself out there.

“I think putting my name on it got the attention of a lot of people”, he said. It also brought him a lot of online criticism when he posted about the event in a community Facebook page.

Bell doesn’t have any plans to organize future events, but may use his leadership skills if he goes into the military, as he hopes to do.

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