High school students bring March For Our Lives to Macomb

MACOMB — A group of about 75 people gathered at the courthouse Saturday, huddled in rain ponchos and under umbrellas against the wind and rain, ready to march.
Saturday’s brief march around the downtown square was co-organized by Emily Burchett and Maya Stovall, students at Macomb High School, in response to the recent mass shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and others. The demonstration was a sister march to the massive “March For Our Lives” rally in Washington, D.C., which drew between 200,000 and 800,000 marchers. The Macomb demonstration was one of dozens of marches which  took place across the country and around the world.
Stovall and her fellow high school students led the march around the square, chanting and carrying signs with hand-written phrases like “enough is enough,” “not one more,” “end the silence, stop gun violence,” “are we next?” and others. Adults supporting the march were close behind the vanguard as the group made its way to the Old Dairy to meet with others writing postcards to state and federal legislators. As they made their way to the back room, a group of about six diners sitting at one of the round tables clapped.
According to the National Institute of Justice National Crime Victimization Survey, 467,321 people in the U.S. were victims of a crime committed with a firearm in 2011. To date this year, 12,804 incidents involving a firearm have taken place, resulting in 3,270 deaths and 5,720 injuries, according to gunviolencearchive.org.
Burchett, Stovall, their fellow students and supporters were unified in their desire to see an end to gun violence, but had different opinions on exactly how to solve the problem. All agreed on one thing: lawmakers need to take action on the issue of gun violence, now.
Speaking to the Voice in front of the courthouse, Stovall, a junior in high school, expressed frustration with legislators. “I hope that our state and national congress sees that we care about this, because right now they’re not doing their job. Their job is to protect us, and the way to do that is stricter gun laws. They need to impose those.”
When asked what she knew about the nation’s gun laws, she said “A lot of them depend on the state. Some are stricter than others. Some, you don’t have to go through much to sell or buy guns. Some you have to do stricter background checks, mental health checks. We need, everywhere, to ban assault rifles and have more (background checks).”
Halle Evans, a 10th-grader who came with fellow members of the Bombers soccer team, expressed what she wanted from legislators in a single word: “Change.”
MHS senior Leah Jorgensen knew exactly how she felt, and what she wanted from legislators. “We have had Columbine, Parkland, Sandy Hook,” she said. “These things keep happening over and over again, and we’ve done nothing to stop it. It’s time for us to stand up, because what we’ve been doing so far hasn’t worked.”
When asked what she believed needs to be done, she said, “I think that we need to have gun control, because what we’re doing so far in just trying to prepare schools is - it’s not prevention. It’s maybe a little bit of preparation. But you can tell students as much as you want to, to get against a hard wall; that’s not going to mean anything if there’s a gunner in the school. So we need to take the guns out of people’s hands.”
When asked what she hoped the marches would achieve, MHS senior Burchett said she wanted to see an end to lives lost through gun violence. “I just know that there are lives that are actively being taken from communities… It’s just completely tragic and unnecessary.”
She wasn’t sure where she stood on gun bans, although she felt that guns were “obviously what’s causing the violence.”
“Personally, what I want is just awareness, and for the people who can do something — the government, and the local governments, and the schools — to just be present and address that something needs to happen. So that we can decide where to go from there… I think we just need to react right now, so that we can stop these lives being taken from us. So that we can find what the deeper issues are and figure out as an entire nation what’s the best thing to do so that these things aren’t happening anymore.”
The Voice attempted to reach state and national legislators for their comments on the march and the issues of gun control and gun violence.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin’s office staff said the senator’s views are expressed at his website: durbin.senate.gov/
U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth said on Twitter that she had attended the march in D.C., and was “proud to join so many young people at the #MarchForOurLives saying #EnoughIsEnough. I wasn’t just there for (& with) my daughter, but also to remember everyone we’ve lost to needless gun violence & protect all our children. The bills are already written & deserve a vote.”
The offices of Congressman Darin LaHood, Illinois Sen. Jil Tracy, and Illinois House Rep. Norine Hammond did not respond by press time.
Students are meeting at Macomb High School today to plan for the April 20 National Day of Action Against Gun Violence in Schools.

Reach Michelle Langhout by email at mlanghout@mcdonoughvoice.com or find her on Facebook.