LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — A rally organized in West Michigan came to the steps of the state Capitol in Lansing with a message: It’s time for things to change when it comes to gun violence.
The Thursday gathering included senior citizens and a group of teens from Kalamazoo determined to see their voices are heard and action is taken.
In the eight days since the teen gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, took 17 lives, young people across the country have led the charge for substantive change in how America regulates — or fails to regulate — guns.
In West Michigan, students at Kalamazoo Central High School launched a petition drive that has more than 111,000 signatures.
Those students are all too familiar with mass shootings. It was only two years ago this week that Kalamazoo was the site of a shooting spree that left six dead.
On Thursday, those students heard from Democrats running for state offices speak about the need to keep guns out of the hands of killers.
“Let me tell you this, nothing deprives us of our personal liberty more than multiple gunshot wounds,” Dana Nessel, who is running for Michigan attorney general, said.
“We just want our kids to be focused on learning. To be safe in their schools and you know what, that’s not too much to ask,” former state Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, another gubernatorial candidate, said.
“The vast majority of perpetrators of gun violence are men, and we don’t have the conversation about this culture of toxic masculinity that we have seen ruin lives in different places,” Abdul El-Sayed, a candidate for governor, said.
But the real stars of the show were the students from Kalamazoo.
“My classmates and I are standing here today because we are done. We are done being voiceless, we are done being pushed to the side and we are done hearing stories of our peers being murdered,” Talia Edmonds, a Kalamazoo Central High School senior, told the crowd of more than 100.
“The truth is that adults have failed us and this time we aren’t going to let the 17 people shot down by a legally purchased gun in at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School be just another number. We are going to stand by the survivors in Parkland to say, ‘never again,’” added Jenna Powker, also a Kalamazoo Central High School senior.
They stalked the halls of the Capitol building, talking to any politician who would listen. That included a long talk with state Sen. Morris Hood, D-Detroit, who assured the students that change is possible.
“You guys are the ones we should be listening to, so continue to do what you’re doing because I know it’s having an impact,” Hood told the students.
These teens say nothing less than real change is acceptable.
“We’ve just got to keep pushing until something is done, we’re not going to stop,” Powker said.
Not a single Republican lawmaker appeared at the rally, but they were invited.