By Anna Toth
After the Parkland shooting on Feb. 14, where 17 high school students were killed, the surviving students rallied together to organize March for Our Lives. Thousands came together in Washington D.C. and 800 other cities around the world on March 24 to show support and demand gun reform so school shootings could one day become a thing of the past.
The Cleveland branch of March for Our Lives was organized strictly by high school students. Promoted through Facebook and word of mouth, thousands of people filed into Public Square at 10 a.m., an hour ahead of the planned start time.
Community leaders, high school students and people connected to Parkland spoke about the issue of gun control and the reality of mass shootings for the first hour of the rally.
As of March 14, The Washington Post has reported 21 deaths in the United States due to mass shootings in 2018 alone. A mass shooting is defined as the death of four or more people by a lone gunman. When you expand that to any gun related death, that number hits 2,837.
“The cold reality is that it takes the murder of over 10 children for us to pay attention,” Parkland native Zachary Lee said at the podium.
The protest featured speakers like Mayor Frank Jackson, Parkland natives and city leaders. It also had high school students from the Ohio area take the stage to talk about how school shootings impact their everyday lives.
“School shootings have been a reality for my entire existence,” Katrina Cassell, a Shaker Heights High School student, said at the podium.
This statement was echoed by many other high school and college students.
Cleveland State student Danielle Mihalcea, vice president of College Democrats, attended the rally and recounted moments when she felt afraid at Cleveland State.
“We had a fire alarm that went off two weeks ago in MC,” Mihalcea said. “It started off by saying ‘This is an emergency,’ and my heart dropped. I didn’t think it was a fire alarm. I thought it was an intruder.”
Mihalcea spoke about how she was still impacted by school shootings around the country in addition to being afraid of them happening at Cleveland State.
Coming from Romania, where guns are illegal and gun violence is nonexistent, Mihalcea has very strong feelings about gun control.
“Personally, I think there shouldn’t be guns at all,” Mihalcea said.
While she doesn’t like guns, she acknowledges that it’s unlikely such a ban would go through.
The general consensus throughout the crowd was in support of some form of gun control, from raising the age limit to banning guns completely.
Cleveland State student and march attendee Isaiah Traben disagrees with a full out gun ban. In his opinion, the problem with mass shootings isn’t guns themselves. Instead, the problem lies with the culture around guns in America.
“Switzerland has the second most guns after the United States, but one of the lowest gun deaths,” Traben said.
While he couldn’t get behind what the march was for, he did spend three hours at the event talking to people about the technical aspects of guns and any gun bans. He expressed frustration with people who didn’t fully understand the difference between semi-automatic and fully-automatic guns, wishing they were more educated about the topic they were marching for.
While he disagreed with the technical aspects, Traben was happy that people were so passionate about something, even if he couldn’t get behind it.
“If people in the march were pushing for a more cultural shift, that would be better,” Traben said.
Gun control is a hot debate in the United States. Falling closer to the middle of the debate was Cleveland State student Ren Kauffman, who had very specific ideas about gun control.
In addition to banning assault rifles and stressing the importance of background checks, they mention that waiting periods and mental health screenings need to be implemented alongside training classes and exams.
“The Second Amendment was written during a time of muskets and militias,” Kauffman said, “There’s no need for that anymore.”
Kauffman challenges people who attended March for Our Lives to continue the discussion by getting involved, signing petitions and calling representatives about gun reform in the future. While the march was a start, Kauffman attended the event not only because they are a college student passionate about proper gun reform, but because they have younger siblings currently in school.
“I’m always worrying about [them] while they’re at school,” Kauffman said. “Things need to be changed for them.”