Credit: Abby Cruz

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Standing on top of the shoulders of her classmate, Jeniffer Guandique,16, holds a sign that reads, “Gun violence does not start or stop in our schools.” Guandique is one of hundreds of D.C. area students who walked out of their classrooms Thursday to head toward the White House and rally against gun violence.

“I walked out personally today because I am tired of having to see how many kids die from violence every single day in this country,” says Guandique, a junior at Northwood High School, as her friend tries to hold her up as high as possible so that everyone in attendance can see her message. “I hope this brings stricter gun laws,” says Guandique. “And it makes us feel safer in schools again because I feel paranoid to go to school every single day.”

After walking out of class, students marched with their posters and signs toward their nearest Metro stations and met at the White House. There, a sea of students gathered around one another, chanting: “Hey, hey NRA, how many kids have you killed today?” and “How many more?”

Friendship Collegiate Academy students Credit: Abby Cruz

Camiya Penny, a senior at Friendship Collegiate Academy in Northeast D.C., says that since she was born and raised in the District, she walked out because she feels like the lawmakers “do not hear us.” “I think gun violence in D.C. gets overlooked because people expect it to happen here because of the African-American crime rate” says Penny. “So when someone says, ‘Oh, someone just got killed in Northeast D.C.,’ someone will say, ‘Oh, that happens often.’” Penny says she hopes the protest brings more awareness to the gun violence currently happening in D.C. neighborhoods. “I pray that I don’t ever get affected by gun violence personally and I pray that everybody can come together as one in unison.”

Along with Penny, students from across the D.C.-area were in attendance Thursday. After traveling to the White House together, they each marched as one to the Capitol where speakers awaited to address their concerns. Students arrived to the Capitol where they were instructed by students from MoCo Students for Change, the group that organized the event, to sit and listen to the selected speakers.

“Keep fighting, keep speaking out, and keep talking to the people that I serve with until they hear from every one of you,” said Ted Deutch of Florida’s 22nd congressional district. “We can no longer accept inaction. … Too many lives are being lost. We can take action, you’re demanding it, and I am so proud to be your partner in that fight.”

As representative Deutch spoke on current gun issues, students clapped and shouted “hooray.” They did the same for other politicians who discussed the need for changes.

Students in attendance urged for universal background checks, for lawmakers to take matters more seriously, and for stricter gun laws in the United States. “We need tighter gun control legislation,” says Molly Busis, 17, a junior at Bethesda Chevy Chase High School. “There are so many senseless deaths in the U.S. whether it be in underprivileged communities or mass shootings. It’s just too much death in this country due to guns, and it needs to stop.”  

Busis designed a poster with a popular youthful meme explaining how Congress will react if they decide not to pass gun control legislation and if violence continues. “It feels powerful to have all these students here and that we are able to be here right where things are happening in the government. It’s amazing to see everyone coming together.”

“I hope that we can solve the gun issue in this country,” says Busis.