Triangle students walk out, united in their grief and resolve for change
As her seventh-grade son Stuart rang a hand bell, Carrie Doyle read the names of the 17 students killed a month ago at a high school in Parkland, Florida, during a rally at the Old County Courthouse in Hillsborough Wednesday.
A moment of silence followed the reading of names. Stuart Doyle, a student at Stanford Middle School, rang the bell in honor of each shooting victim.
Doyle, along with members of the group Hillsborough Progressives Taking Action, organized Wednesday's rally of parents and adults, who gathered in support of national student walkouts supporting stronger gun laws. "We are devastated that school shootings have become commonplace," Doyle told the crowd.
She praised the actions of the students in Parkland who lost friends in the shooting. "All of us here today have been motivated and inspired by their example. ... Let's say, Enough is Enough," Doyle said.
Stuart Doyle, along with Lauren Irving, Bessie Mbadugha and Gina Rhoades, read some statements that students had written in the wake of the Parkland shootings. "My generation takes school shootings in stride as if they were normal occurrences," one student wrote.
Other students wrote: "Enough. When did guns become more important than education for our children?"...Guns in the public do much more harm than they do good. ... We need to stop this."
Among those who spoke were Democratic congressional candidates Michelle Laws and Richard Watkins. Laws told the crowd that she grew up with guns in her house, and also understood the consequences of gun violence. Her sister Veronica Foushee was shot by her boyfriend in 1990. The boyfriend had obtained his gun from her father, she said.
In an interview after her speech, Laws said she grew up in a house with hunting rifles and her great-grandmother kept a gun for protection, she said.
"I get those who say, Don't infringe on my Second Amendment rights," Laws said. But the time has come for a more holistic approach to end gun violence, including stronger background checks, elimination of assault rifle sales, and more access to mental health treatment.
She told the courthouse crowd that the young people leading the Wednesday walkout "seem to know what to do. I am prepared to go to Congress and carry the water."
Robbyn Ellison, who has students in several Orange County schools, spoke at the rally. "I am in full support of my kids walking out of class" to show support for stronger gun laws, Ellison said. Arming teachers is not the answer, she said. "More guns is not the answer; less guns sound better to me," she said, to the cheers of the crowd.
Tina Partner, a member of Hillsborough Progressives Taking Action, said she was attending the rally to support the students walking out. "As a military veteran, I'm here to ask, Why in the world are we allowing the sale of assault weapons [like the] AR-15," Partner said. "These weapons are designed to kill and maim as many people as quickly as possible.
"How many more of our citizens need to be murdered before gun enthusiasts and hobbyists will join us in saying, Enough is enough?"