“There are times I woke up in the morning and thought, ‘I don’t want to go to school today because what if I don’t live to see the next day?’” said Heather McCoy.
She was among the roughly 150 Lorain County JVS students who walked out Wednesday in a protest against the country’s problem with gun violence.
“I think we really owe people respect and we need to show the world that this isn’t OK, that we need a change and somebody shouldn’t be able to walk into a school and hurt all those people because it’s not right,” she said. “We should have a better system to protect us.”
Lorain County sheriff’s deputies and Wellington firefighters blocked off the school entrance for security during the event.
Students walked out at 10 a.m. as part of a nationwide demonstration. They had the blessing of principal Jill Petitti, who said no disciplinary steps would be taken against students who took part.
The goal, she said, was to allow students to express their beliefs in a safe environment.
Student opinions varied widely. Some rallied for tighter background checks while others pushed for a ban on guns altogether.
Courtney Cummings said she has been scared to go to school ever since the Parkland shootings. “I feel we should take the guns away from people who don’t know what they’re doing with them,” she said.
“I don’t really think this should be about gun control,” said Jarrett Billy. “It should be about the 17 kids that got shot. That’s all I have to say.”
Daniel Plouffe said his family owns guns and he has enjoyed hunting before. “It’s a little controversial but I feel that stronger background checks are needed to make sure that people who shouldn’t have guns don’t have guns,” he said.
“I understand what happened in Florida was a tragedy and it’s been happening for quite some time now,” said Michael Laird, laying the responsibility at the feet of irresponsible gun owners. “I understand the right to bear arms is our Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights and it’s pretty much unable to be repealed — but at the same time, we should have more precautions like certain tests to obtain a firearm or better security so your child doesn’t obtain your firearm.”
Evan Thomson told the crowd that giving teachers guns, as proposed by President Donald Trump, would make him uncomfortable. “We don’t need to give teachers guns. Their jobs are to teach us about how to protect our nation and how to be an American,” he said. “I think that we should at least have some way of protecting ourselves. At the JVS, we do have officers. I feel like that would be a great way to give a sign that you cannot come in here because we have people to protect us. We should not just take all the guns away because that won’t help at all.”
Petitti told students that a good way to improve their own safety is to report suspicious activity or information to administrators.
“In the future, if you see something, hear something, if you have any concerns, there are many of us around that want to hear your concerns,” she said.
Laurie Hamame can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @HamameNews on Twitter.