Friday marks 19 years since two students opened fire on their classmates at Columbine High School in Colorado, one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.
Students from around the Puget Sound region – most of whom weren’t even born when the Columbine massacre took place – are planning to gather for a rally against gun violence in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood.
This protest continues a wave of student activism sparked by the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida that left 17 people dead.
Students are planning to come from as far away as Marysville and Issaquah, according to Niko Battle, a 17-year-old junior at Kamiak High School in Mukilteo who’s one of the organizers.
He said his own community has suffered the effects of gun violence.
“Summer of 2016, Mukilteo experienced a shooting where three Kamiak graduates lost their lives,” Battle said. “The year before that, my freshman year, Kamiak was actually put on lockdown for the majority of the day because firecrackers went off in a stairwell and sounded like gunshots.”
Many of the students joining the rally have already taken part in a nationwide school walkout that took place one month after the Parkland, Florida, shooting.
Sam Treat organized that walkout at Garfield High School in Seattle and is organizing students from his school to take part on Friday. He’s 16 years old and a sophomore.
“With a lot of movements and a lot of issues that people care deeply about, we’ll have one walkout or one rally and then it will kind of go by the wayside,” he said. “I think we need to keep pushing this because I think it’s an important one, and our safety needs to be ensured, and I don’t think enough has been done.”
Treat said he and other students want lawmakers to raise the legal age for buying a semi-automatic weapon to 21. They also want more comprehensive background checks and other restrictions.
Treat and his classmates will receive unexcused absences for taking part in the rally during school hours, but he said that’s worth it for making his voice heard on what he said is such a critical issue.