COLUMBUS, Ohio — A high-school student whose cousin was killed in the Parkland, Florida, school shooting was among hundreds of Ohio students to descend on the Statehouse on Wednesday while thousands more across the state walked out of classes or took other action during a nationwide day of activism against gun violence.
Matthew Youkilis, a 17-year-old student organizer from Cincinnati, said his cousin Jaime Guttenberg’s death in the Feb. 14 mass shooting at the Florida school brought gun violence home for him. Youkilis joined about 250 students from Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland and other cities to demonstrate and lobby lawmakers for tougher gun laws. Another 50 Columbus-area students rallied outside for added school support staff as an alternative to more police, security and armed teachers.
Micah Kraus, an 18-year-old from Cincinnati, echoed a cry heard around the country: “Enough is enough.”
“For far too long, the students and kids in this country have had to live in constant fear of being victims of gun violence,” Kraus said.
Earlier in the day, some students at a central Ohio high school that had a shooting last year joined the nationwide student walkouts to protest gun violence despite being warned they could face detention or more serious discipline.
The Springfield News-Sun reports about 10 students exited West Liberty-Salem High School as a group of supporters across the street cheered. Superintendent Kraig Hissong said campus isn’t the place for political demonstrations and it’s not in the district’s interest to endorse political movements.
The student most severely injured in the West Liberty shooting urged classmates to instead honor victims of the recent Florida school massacre, in which 17 people were killed, through a memorial Wednesday in the school gym. The superintendent said that was allowed because it’s nonpolitical and indoors.
Thousands of other students left class or briefly stopped their studies to join in the school walkouts to protest gun violence or honor the victims of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.
Other students and educators held discussions about school safety or used alternative demonstrations to honor the victims. Students in Salem tried to perform 17 acts of kindness throughout the day.
Some students voiced support for gun ownership.
The Dayton Daily News reported Centerville City Schools’ superintendent said about 400 high school students there participated in a walkout on school grounds but another 20 students demonstrated with signs in support of the National Rifle Association.
In Brimfield, 12-year-old Olivia Shane skipped the gun protest and memorial at her school.
“People want to take away our guns, and it’s a Second Amendment right of ours,” she said. “If they want to take away our Second Amendment right, why can’t we take away their amendment of freedom of speech?”