It’s been a week since 19 children and two teachers were killed in a shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Since then, there have already been 17 mass shootings across the nation as of this writing, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
On Tuesday, the youth advocacy group MN Teen Activists organized a statewide school walkout to protest gun violence and urge lawmakers to create stricter gun reforms. Hundreds of students of all grade levels came to Gold Medal Park to march through downtown Minneapolis. Some painted crosshair targets in black marker on their palms and foreheads, chanting “hands up, don’t shoot.”
“We’re here today because time and time again we have seen our lives not matter within our democracy, within our legislative floors, within our communities, and within our schools,” said MN Teen Activists executive director and Highland Park High School senior Jerome Treadwell during the press conference. “It is a shame that time and time again, we can go to our schools or grocery stores with the fear of ‘Are we going to live? Are we going to come home to our families? Is this place where we spend eight hours a day going to be safe?’”
Students offered a list of demands throughout the press conference: a change in state law to have fewer (“traumatizing”) active shooter drills in schools, a statewide advisory committee on student safety, and for expanded mental health checks and resources in schools. Demands also included a ban on AR-15 rifles or extensive training requirements for ownership.
“We demand accountability from public officials and their refusal to act with urgency with the mass shootings that took place in Texas,” Washburn High School senior Nyagach Kueth said.
Calls to “protect kids, not guns,” echoed throughout the streets of downtown.
“It has been nearly a decade since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary and yet federal gun safety legislation has been repeatedly blocked,” tweeted Sen. Amy Klobuchar after the shooting. “Thoughts and prayers are not enough. Only action will begin to solve this deadly crisis.”
In Minnesota, 462 people die by guns in an average year, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, which ranks the state #17 when it comes to Gun Law Strength. Minnesota does not require background checks on purchases from private sellers (or unlicensed firearms dealers). The state also has not adopted “Red Flag” laws, which allow petitioning for a court order that temporarily prevents someone in crisis from accessing guns.
From Parkland to Sandy Hook, AR-15-style weapons have been used in the grimmest mass shootings in the country. In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed a ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines into law that lasted until 2004, when Congress let it lapse. During that 10-year period, mass shootings in the country were reduced, and then increased dramatically when the ban ended. Between 2009 and 2020, the five deadliest mass shooting incidents in the U.S. all involved the use of assault weapons or high-capacity magazines.
The Uvalde gunman legally purchased two AR-platform rifles from a licensed gun store in the days after his 18th birthday, just a few weeks prior to the massacre.
Rep. Betty McCollum posted last week, “When car crashes were the leading cause of death for children, we did something about it. Now firearms are the leading cause of death for children. We’ve got to act. Let’s start by banning assault rifles & weapons of mass murder.” Rep. Dean Phillips also released a statement on Twitter: “I’m a gun owner. Do not tell me our Founders conceived of this carnage when they wrote the Constitution. Do not tell me they would have tolerated this madness. Do not tell me that teachers must be armed. And do not tell me your AR15 is worth more than another 14 children’s lives.”
The police in Uvalde have been criticized for taking over an hour to kill the gunman inside the school. The U.S. Department of Justice announced this week it would review the law enforcement response.
In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a plan to ban handgun sales and the possession of assault weapons. “We have a responsibility to act to prevent more tragedies,” he said. “We need only look south of the border to know that if we do not take action, firmly and rapidly, it gets worse and worse and more difficult to counter.”
“We will have press conferences, we will have demands, we will have legislative sessions,” Treadwell said. “We will do everything in our power to be sure that our voices matter.”