Pahrump students join national movement, protest gun violence

Students at Pahrump Valley High School followed suit with a national movement on Wednesday that brought out thousands of high schoolers and those from other grade levels across the nation to protest gun violence and the National Rifle Association.

Many students at the high school poured out of classrooms just after 10 a.m. and peacefully gathered along the steps near the football field as faculty members stood watch, following the National School Walkout that was expected to bring out an estimated 185,000 people across 50 states, according to a report by an NBC News website.

On the national level, many called for things such as a ban on assault weapons, universal background checks before gun sales, and some were seeking to pass a gun violence restraining order law that would allow courts to take away weapons from individuals that display warning signs of violent behavior, CNN reported.

Organizers of the national movement planned for students in each protest to walk out for 17 minutes—with each minute representing one of the 17 people killed in the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14. The Pahrump effort lasted roughly more than 10 minutes.

Pahrump Valley High School Principal Jennifer Ehrheart, along with Assistant Principal Chuck Fannin, looked on as students observed a moment of silence and spoke about last month’s deadly shooting in Florida.

Both noted that a similar observance took place on campus last week, which brought out the Nye County Sheriff’s Office, Nevada Assemblyman James Oscarson and others.

“This was for the students, who for whatever reason, did not participate or decided to participate again,” Ehrheart said. “It’s part of today’s nationwide student walkout protest. We had less than a hundred students participate today.”

Ehrheart also said faculty members did not know what to expect on campus once the day began.

“I kind of figured that since the students had already observed the tragedy last week, it would be a small turnout today and it was,” she said. “Every student who participated was very well-behaved and respectful today.”

National message

Students from thousands of schools planned to come out for the protest on gun violence, including several schools in Las Vegas and Henderson, along with some in Northern Nevada, and in Carson City as well.

A student from Canyon Springs High School was notated on CNN for his sign that read, “I will not be silenced for my actions. I have the voice that those 17 victims couldn’t have today.”

Some students didn’t agree with all the premises of the walkout. A group of young Republicans at Lapeer High School formed a sit-in at the school’s cafeteria, while other students walked out.

Austin Roth, a senior at the Michigan school and a member of the group, told CNN he supported “federal background checks and is ‘not completely against’ raising the age to buy firearms.”

However, he is in strong disagreement on banning assault rifles, saying the weapon would be useful when confronted by “multiple criminals.”

“Guns are not the problem. The people are the problem,” Austin told CNN.

Congress’ reaction

The efforts didn’t go unheard, as the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to increase security at schools across the nation, as many students, parents and teachers participated in the protest efforts.

According to a report by CNN, the bill is an attempt to curb school violence through several avenues. The bill offers more training for school officials and local law enforcement to give response to mental health crises, money to develop anonymous systems, and funds for things like metal detectors and locks.

The bill now heads to the U.S. Senate, though several Democratic lawmakers in the House wanted to take up measures on gun control that would widen background checks and ban assault weapons.

The measure passed the House 407-10 on Wednesday.

States continued to take up efforts to curb violence.

Illinois voted to raise the legal age to buy an assault weapon to 21, a move similar to Florida, where Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill into law in March that raises the minimum age to purchase a gun in the state to 21. There are some people exempt from the new Florida statute, including members of the military and law enforcement, along with a few others.

The 19-year-old former student, Nikolas Cruz, who was formally charged on March 7 with the murder of 17 people, allegedly used an AR-15-style rifle, a Smith &Wesson M&P 15, in the Feb. 14 attack.

Nevada efforts

Assemblyman Oscarson is spearheading an effort to form a committee that would involve high school students in roundtable discussions with him, along with others, on future gun legislation. Oscarson is hoping to create a piece of legislation for the 2019 session through the talks.

Ehrheart said student representatives have been chosen for the effort by teachers at the high school. Efforts to set a date are still in process.

Gov. Brian Sandoval announced on Monday plans to create a task force that will recommend several school safety initiatives that will be included in the final budget.

“I have the benefit of building the next budget, which will be hopefully completed by the end of August,” Sandoval said Monday, according to a report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “This is a priority for me that I want to see go into the budget.”

The announcement came after a two-hour meeting with school superintendents in the state on Monday.

“He said he would sign an executive order by the end of the week creating the task force of superintendents, parents, students, behavioral health specialists and others and instruct them to craft recommendations,” the Review-Journal reported.

Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at sharris@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @pvtimes

Contact reporter Jeffrey Meehan at jmeehan@pvtimes.com

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