Thousands participate in national school walkout after Nashville shooting, urge gun control

 Thousands of students walked out of classes across the country Wednesday to demand lawmakers take action on gun safety following the mass shooting at an elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee, last week.

Advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety, which coordinated the walkouts through Students Demand Action, said there were more than 300 demonstrations across 41 states and D.C. to kick off a "week of action" by advocates and gun violence survivors.

Ryley Collins, 15, a volunteer with Students Demand Action who helped lead a walkout at Jasper High School in Plano, Texas, said she and her classmates wanted to "make sure our lawmakers understand that we want more than just thoughts and prayers."

"We want to be safe in our schools and we want them to take action to protect our lives, not the gun industry's profits," Collins said.

USA TODAY confirmed thousands of students walked out of classes through local media reports, estimates from school districts and USA TODAY Network reporters on the scene.

'They're begging us to do something:' Nashville lawmaker calls for gun reform as hundreds protest after Covenant shooting

Crosstown High School students walk out of their classes to the outside plaza to protest lax gun laws in Tennessee and across the U.S. on April 5, 2023 in Memphis.

In Uvalde, Texas, dozens of high school students left classes, local news outlets reported. Last year, an 18-year-old former student fatally shot 19 children and two teachers and injured 17 others at one of the town's elementary schools.

"Children shouldn’t have to walk out of class so that adults can find the political will to do something to keep them safe," said Texas Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat, in a statement.

And in Dallas, "hundreds" of students walked out of classes, the Dallas Independent School District said.

Students at East High School in Pueblo, Colorado, hold signs with messages protesting gun violence during a walkout event at the high school on Wednesday, April 5, 2023.

North Carolina saw school walkouts across several districts. In the Charlotte area, thousands of students at five high schools staged peaceful walkouts, said Eddie Perez, spokesperson for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. Some could be seen leaving classes holding signs overhead, WSOC-TV reported.

In South Florida, around 100 students left classes at South Broward High School, according to local WSVN-TV. On Monday, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill that eliminates licensing requirements for Florida residents to carry a concealed firearm in most public places.

In Memphis, nearly a thousand students from two high schools walked out of classes for nearly an hour Wednesday. "We deserve to live and to learn without fear," said student organizer Sofia Gutierrez, a senior at Crosstown High School.

Elementary, middle school students join 

Younger students also participated in the demonstrations: Approximately 350 students walked out of classes at a middle school in Ladue, Missouri, for instance, and about 300 middle and high school students walked out in Melrose, Massachusetts, spokespeople for the respective districts said.

Senior Megan Burgess leads students in a chant Wednesday, during a walkout at Somersworth High School in New Hampshire to raise awareness about school shootings and gun violence.

In Maplewood, Missouri, more than 300 elementary, middle and high school students participated in demonstrations, said Ed Rich, spokesperson for the Maplewood Richmond Heights School District.

The district shared photos of the event at one elementary school showing 11-year-olds lined up against a playground fence, holding signs that read "Protect children not guns" and "We are the future." At the high school event, students observed six minutes of silence, representing each of the six victims of the Nashville school shooting, Rich said.

April 5 national school walkout follows Nashville shooting

The walkouts come one day after hundreds of high school and college students left class across Nashville and Middle Tennessee as part of a demonstration coordinated by national gun reform organization March For Our Lives and Students Demand Action. The students were joined by thousands more as they marched to the state Capitol.

March for Our Lives coordinated a protest and school walkout to march to the Capitol to push for gun control reform on Monday, a week after the Covenant School shooting.

Last week, a 28-year-old former student armed with two AR-style weapons killed three children and three adult staff members at the Covenant School, a small, private Christian elementary school in Nashville.

Following the shooting, Tennessee's Republican-controlled legislature delayed all firearms-related bills by at least one week. 

President Joe Biden called on Congress to act, saying he has exhausted what he can do through executive action on gun control.

So far this year, there have been at least 39 incidents of gunfire on school grounds, resulting in 17 deaths and 30 injuries nationally, according to Everytown.

Incidents in which a gun was brandished or fired or a bullet hit school property reached all-time highs last year, according to the K-12 School Shooting Database. There have been 96 such incidents on school grounds this year, the database shows.

"It's getting out of hand," said Jesse Chavez, a freshman at East High School in Pueblo, Colorado, who participated in the walkout. "I haven't seen any (legislation) to actually stop it, and there's been more school shootings each day."

Read more

  • Nashville community mourns victims:'Shining light.' An 'unflappable spirit.' A 'natural teacher'
  • 'All of us stepped over a victim':Nashville officers describe response to Covenant School shooting
  • 'Aren't you guys tired of this?' W
  • oman who survived Highland Park shooting makes plea in Nashville
  • Why do mass shooters target K-12 schools? Here's what we know after Nashville shooting

Contributing: Josué Perez, The Pueblo Chieftain; Lucas Finton and Micaela A. Watts, Memphis Commercial Appeal; Nashville Tennessean staff

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