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Students Rally Against Gun Violence At Kentucky Capitol

Ryland Barton

Students from across Kentucky traveled to the state Capitol to rally against gun violence as part of demonstrations that took place across the country on Wednesday.

More than 40 students from Marshall County High School made the three-and-a-half hour trip to Frankfort.

Marshall County Junior Leighton Solomon was one of several students to speak at the rally. She called on lawmakers to put politics aside and come up with solutions to school violence.

“Students should not need to be scared to come to school. We should not be having to fight for our right to a safe education because that should be a given,” Solomon said.

A 15 year-old has been accused of opening fire in a common area of Marshall County High School on the morning of Jan. 23. Two fifteen year-olds were killed and eighteen others were injured in the event.

Kentucky lawmakers have put forward a few proposals to try and prevent future school shootings, but no bills have generated widespread support. They’ve also advanced a bill that would require schools to employ mental health professionals to recognize symptoms of trauma in students.

Gov. Matt Bevin has said he won’t support any new gun restrictions, though he does support arming teachers and school employees with proper training.

Isel Spears, a student at South Oldham County High School, said she doesn’t think teachers should be armed.

“Teachers are paid and trained to be educators, not soldiers,” Spears said. “Adding more guns to the situation will not help it. Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

At least 200 students attended the rally in Frankfort and more than 3,000 student rallies took place across the country according to NPR.

Students at the Kentucky rally pushed for a variety of issues ranging from safe storage of guns to raising the age to purchase an assault rifle to boosting school safety.

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, a Democrat, applauded students for protesting.

“There is a movement happening and it’s from statehouses and most importantly school classrooms across the nation, where this civil disobedience — which has shaped the best parts of our history — is making a difference,” Grimes said. “With your help it will make a difference right here in the commonwealth of Kentucky.”

Gabriel Parker, the accused Marshall County High School shooter, procured the pistol used in the incident from his parents’ closet, according to the Ohio Valley ReSource.

Democrats in the state legislature have proposed a variety of gun control bills, including penalties for unsafe storage of guns, though the bills have not advanced.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Whitney Westerfield, a Republican from Hopkinsville, told OVR that the unsafe storage bills still have a chance to pass.

“We are talking about it. It is not dead,” Westerfield said in the story.

Mattie Dunn, a student at Marshall County High School, said it was meaningful to see students from around the state and country rally against a common cause.

“When you go through it, you know that that change is necessary,” Dunn said. “Seeing people understand how necessary it is even when they haven’t personally gone through it is very inspiring.”

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. He's covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He grew up in Lexington.

Email Ryland at
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