When it comes to stopping gun violence, students continue to play a leading role, including with last week’s nationwide walkout that coincided with the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting. And they are putting politicians like Congresswoman Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) on notice.
“Orange County students put the National Rifle Association and politicians who accept NRA money in their sights Friday during a rally and march around the Irvine Civic Center,” reports the Orange County Register.
Walters has accepted thousands of dollars in all from the NRA and pro-gun lobby.
The national walkout on April 10 was joined by 150,000 students at more than 2,700 events. The students made clear demands of elected officials: Provide money to research gun violence, ban assault-style weapons, and universal background checks to purchase a gun. And they also had a plan of action for themselves: Register and vote.
“Please join me on June 5th and November 6th in voting out the people who are funded by the NRA,” said Kate Finman, a senior at San Juan Hills High School. Finman is referring to California’s primary on June 5, and general election on November 6.
Rally organizers did more than just talk about voting. There was a table with voter registration forms, and chants of “Vote them out,” a reference to politicians who regularly side with groups like the NRA over voting for reasonable gun control measures.
Walters bragged about her A rating from the NRA before the 2016 election, and has voted for looser gun policies at every single opportunity. She even voted to make it easier for individuals with a mental illness to obtain a gun.
Even students who did not participate in the walkout had strong opinions on the topic.
Jasmine Nguyen participated in a previous school walkout on gun violence, and stayed in class for this one. But she is still passionate about the issue, working with her school to organize a voter registration drive. “We’re also trying to get involved to vote out members of Congress that have taken money from the NRA,” Nguyen said.
The level of activism seems to have had an impact on Walters. When a mother of two children politely asked her if she would continue to accept campaign contributions from the NRA, Walters refused to answer directly, and then ran away from the situation.
California has seen a dramatic increase in voter pre-registration, a process where 16- and 17-year-olds can sign up, and be automatically registered when they turn 18. More than 100,000 Californians are pre-registered to vote, with a significant increase in activity since the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
Recent polling shows young people are motivated to vote, especially on the issue of gun control. “The intensity among gun control advocates is palpable,” said Harvard Institute of Politics polling director John Della Volpe, “and this is now a lethal issue for incumbents standing for re-election in the fall.”