Connecticut Teen Behind #NationalSchoolWalkout: ‘It's Our Time'

"We're walking out to talk about the real problems our country is facing, and the solutions that our leaders are too scared to dream up," the Ridgefield teen said

When 15-year-old Lane Murdock initially heard a gunman killed 17 high school students and teachers in Parkland, Florida, she felt sad, but went on with her day as usual.

"The fact that I had such a numb reaction to something like this is not OK. This should not be a normalcy. This should not be OK," Murdock said.

The Ridgefield, Connecticut, sophomore, grew concerned about being initially unaffected by the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. To her, and so many of her peers, mass shootings have become too common in the U.S.

"In the short time I've been in high school, we've had the Pulse, Las Vegas and the Florida shootings,” Murdock told reporters in a February news conference.

Fed up with government inaction on gun control, on the day of the Parkland shooting, Feb. 14, Murdock created an online petition. It called for students to protest by walking out of their schools on April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine massacre, in which two students killed 12 of their classmates and a teacher before killing themselves at a Colorado high school.

The day after the Parkland attack Murdock enlisted the help of two seniors at her school, debate team partners Paul Kim and Max Cumming. Kim said after the meeting he knew they were "onto something incredible."

"I was hearing from people all over the country that they wanted to participate," Murdock said.

She called the first 48 hours some of the busiest of her young life. In two days, her petition had amassed more than 150,000 signatures.

The work of the Ridgefield High School sophomore quickly attracted the attention of Connecticut’s Democratic congressional delegation. 

The lawmakers have pushed unsuccessfully for stronger national gun control measures since the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. They see the wave of youth activism in the wake of the Florida shooting as a hopeful change in what's been in an unyielding debate over tightening federal gun laws.

"We are going to stand on their shoulders and we’re going to say, 'enough is enough,' and take action,” U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, who appeared with Murdock at the Feb. news conference, said at the time. “That’s what this is about now.” 

The Ridgefield students also received support from the Sandy Hook Promise, the advocacy group founded by families of the victims of the Newtown massacre.  Mark Barden, whose 6-year-old son Daniel was killed in the Newtown school shooting, called the young people getting involved since the Florida shooting “a force to be reckoned with.”

"They are not going to be intimidated by corporate greed, they’re not going to be bullied by money and power. They want to fix this and they’re going to do it," Barden said.

More than 2,700 walkouts were scheduled to take place at 10 a.m. local time across the country, according to organizers. 

"We're walking out to remember every single young person who has been killed by American gun violence," Murdock said in a statement Thursday. "We're walking out to talk about the real problems our country is facing, and the solutions that our leaders are too scared to dream up."

Friday's walkouts come one month after tens of thousands of students left class March 14 to protest gun violence in what historians called the largest youth protest movement since at least the Vietnam War. Days later, hundreds of thousands of teens and their backers rallied across the U.S. calling for tougher laws on guns and ammunition.

"We will not stop working," Murdock said, adding how it’s important for students to stay engaged and motivated.

Among the specific demands listed on the group's website, they are calling for universal background checks, asking lawmakers to vote against the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act – which would allow gun owners to carry weapons in any state, so long as they have a permit from their home state – and supporting other "common sense" gun control laws.

"Adults have been in power for a long time and not a lot has changed,” Murdock said. "It’s students’ time. It’s our time."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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