Thousands of students across the U.S. broke from classes Wednesday to protest gun violence and push for stricter firearm laws.
Beginning at 10 a.m. [1400GMT], students left classrooms for 17 minutes — one minute for each person killed in a mass shooting exactly one month to the day at a high school in the state of Florida.
The 17 victims were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland when a gunman armed with an assault rifle carried out one of the worst mass shootings in modern U.S. history.
In nearly 3,000 reported protests nationwide, students from elementary schools, colleges and universities demonstrated in a number of ways.
Some held rallies, others staged die-ins on football fields and there were also marches.
In the nation’s capital, thousands staged walkouts and headed for the U.S. Capitol where they demanded new gun control measures.
“I am here because I do not want students to have to be afraid when they are going to school anymore,” Caroline Mounhaver, 15, from Albert Einstein High School in the neighboring state of Maryland told Anadolu Agency.
“I do not want little children to be afraid that if they go to school, they are going to get shot or hurt.”
For Laura Campo, 14, from John F. Kennedy High School, also in Maryland, the rally was to help bring change because “leaders nowadays act like children and children act like leaders”.
Aanon Chenez, 13, who attends Richard Montgomery High School, told Anadolu Agency she hopes politicians hear their voices.
“It has been a month and we have seen little to no change and it is ridiculous. That is why we are here, lobbying for gun control. But nothing is happening.”
High schooler Jackson Hawkings came not to advocate for taking guns away but to help protect lives.
“We should not have to wake up in fear every day, knowing that we can lose our lives in the schools,” he said.
As the protest went on, some lawmakers, including former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, came to the Capitol to shake hands with protesters.
“Proof of the matter is that when people come together, there is nothing that we cannot accomplish, and all over this country people are standing up and demanding that we do everything possible to end gun violence that is killing so many people,” Sanders told a group in the crowd.
He emphasized that regulations and measures for gun sales need to be improved and expanded.
“We have got to end the so-called gun show loophole. That means that people should not be able to buy weapons without going through background checks,” he said, adding that assault style weapons are designed to kill and the sale and distribution of those types of military weapons should be prohibited.
Nationwide outrage about gun violence in the wake of the shooting in Florida reportedly prompted President Donald Trump to indicate a willingness to sign a bill passed by the House of Representatives on Wednesday that is aimed at reducing school violence.
The White House said the bill would raise funding for coordination between schools and law enforcement.
Additionally, in a series of posts on Twitter, Trump suggested increasing the age to legally purchase a firearm to 21, comprehensive background checks including mental health checks, and ending the sale of a gun modification used to turn semi-automatic firearms into near-automatic guns.
Those proposals could face stiff opposition in Congress, however, where lawmakers backed by the highly influential National Rifle Association (NRA) are unlikely to lend full support.
The NRA has staunchly opposed raising the age for gun purchases and its president told a conservative gathering in Washington that gun control advocates are exploiting the “tragedy for political gain”.