UPDATE: Iowa City students hold walkout to protest gun violence, gun advocate reacts

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- Students at City High, West High, and South East Junior High in Iowa City held a walkout to protest gun violence on February 19.

The students say they hope walking out of class, and marching will show people that their voices matter. City High student Ellen Fields says, "Not all of us can vote. Not all of us do have that option. Not all of us do have that say, but we will eventually, and we are going to be the people who are making the laws and changing the laws eventually."

Many of them were holding signs calling for changes in gun laws, mainly wanting a ban of the AR-15. That’s the gun that was used in the Florida school shooting, and other mass shootings.

Student Noah Pavlic says, "We don't have to ban rifles and pistols but these semi-automatic rifles, the AR-15. There's no reason to have these as civilians."

The manager of Palo Outdoors, Matt Schrantz says he’s been selling AR-15’s for almost 40 years. He says the problem is mental health, and not guns.

He says, “When we sell let's say an AR1-15, it's to a law abiding citizen we know and trust. A lot of them are using it for target range, and practicing and hunting.”

He says there's a misunderstanding about AR-15's because it looks scary, but he points out it shoots the same as other less controversial guns.

He adds, "You have to pull the trigger every time. Just like any of the other guns out there. People can work a pump as fast as they can work a semi-automatic in a lot of situations.”

Students who protested say gun control is an issue that's affecting them, and it shouldn't just be adults solving it.

Fields says, "That may be the case with some political issues but that's not the case with this. That is definitely not the case here, because we're the ones getting shot at."

City High and the Iowa City school district released statements, explaining how they support students' rights to make statements, but the walk out was not sanctioned by the administration.

The school principal said in a statement, “Students at City High are intelligent, hard-working, socially conscious individuals. Our students are the leaders of tomorrow. It does not surprise me that City High students are working together in a peaceful, respectful manner to try to do what they believe is right. While we always, obviously, encourage students to be in class and do their best academically, I understand that this issue is important to students and many chose to take action.”

The district said it would do more next time to prepare for such an event to minimally disrupt the school day. In a statement, they said,
“Today, junior high and high school students across our district participated in a planned student walkout calling for government action to prevent school shootings. Students always have the right to peacefully protest, and the District applauds their engagement in social action and honors their right to free speech. Students were encouraged to notify their parents if they planned to participate, and parents were able to excuse their absence by notifying the school. Additionally, each school worked to notify parents of student absences if no previous communication was received.

When student leadership groups notify their building administration of a planned demonstration, the District is able to work through situations of this type effectively with minimal disruption to the school day. However, at the time we learned of this potential protest, we were not able to confirm whether it would in fact take place. Reflecting on this, we will be sure to communicate the potential for such events with the appropriate school communities going forward. If you would like to discuss this in more detail, please do not hesitate to contact us.”

Students at City High, West High, and South East Junior High in Iowa City held a walkout to protest gun violence on February 19.

The walkout began at 11 a.m. and ended at the Old Capital Building.

Once at the Pentacrest, a student read the names of the 17 victims from last week's shooting at Parkland, Florida into a megaphone. Students at the rally repeated the names in unison.

Read the original version of this article at www.kcrg.com.