Local students protest gun violence after Florida school shooting

A group of students with the help of State Rep. Stacey Newman organized a press conference on Feb. 23 at Parkway Central High School to urge lawmakers to take action to prevent mass shootings. Photo: Eric Berger

BY ERIC BERGER, STAFF WRITER

A group of Parkway Central High School students organized a news conference after school Friday to call for action to prevent gun violence in the wake of the mass shooting earlier this month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

More than 70 students stood in front of the school as a few spoke and were joined by state Rep. Stacey Newman, D-Richmond Heights. A day earlier, Newman filed the Save our Kids Act, which would make it more difficult for a person to obtain a weapon without receiving a permit and a federal background check; ban the sale of fully automatic weapons; and firearms and ammunition to minors, among other measures.

“We should not and can not live in fear,” said Zoe Rosenberg, a senior who helped organize the gathering and is the daughter of Rabbi Brigitte Rosenberg of  United Hebrew Congregation.

“That is why we, today’s students, must do our part to ensure the safety of tomorrow. So call your senators, call your representatives, demand action — tell them to vote gun smart, to find a way so that not one more student loses their life to gun violence.”

Earlier in the day, more than 120 students walked out of class at Clayton High School and held a similar news conference, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

At Ladue Horton Watkins High School, more than 150 students walked out onto the track during the school day to hold a moment of silence for each of the 17 shooting victims, a district spokesperson told the newspaper.

The local action comes as high school students across the country are urging lawmakers to approve legislation intended to help prevent mass shootings. 

President Donald Trump has responded by proposing that some teachers carry firearms in the classroom; that the minimum age for buying an assault rifle be raised to 21 from 18; and that  “bump stocks” be banned. Bump stocks allow semiautomatic weapons to fire at a rate approaching that of  automatic weapons.

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Newman said that she had heard from students asking her what they could do to help pass legislation. The Parkway Central news conference attracted more than 50 parents, teachers, rabbis and members of the Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

“These students are mad,” Newman said. “The teachers are mad. The parents are mad. All I did behind the scenes was help make this a reality.”

Hannah Maurer, a Parkway Central senior, also helped organize the conference and spoke. She said she had been inspired by the Florida students’ response to the shooting

“We need to keep it going and show other students that they do have a voice and their voice should always be included — and that [their voice] matters,” she said.

Jewish student Josh Heiman, 14, said “consistently hearing about these shootings happening over and over again, it’s to the point where we have to do something about it, and there’s no other way than” gun reform.

He said he plans to contact state officials, federal officials and “anyone who can help find a way to change the laws.”