Students rally in Olympia to urge lawmakers to support gun safety legislation

About 100 high school students rallied inside the State Capitol on Tuesday, March 6, 2018, in support of gun safety legislation currently being debated by State Senators, including raising the age to purchase rifles. (Photo: KOMO News)

OLYMPIA, Wash. - About 100 high school students rallied inside the State Capitol on Tuesday in support of gun safety legislation currently being debated by State Senators, and to remind lawmakers that going to school now is different from a generation ago.

“My learning is being disrupted by the constant fear in the back of my mind,” said one student addressing the crowd.

The students where there in support of SB 6620, sponsored by Democratic State Sen. David Frockt of Seattle.

The bill would raise the legal age to buy semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21 and would strength background checks on all rifle purchases.

“Access to guns is insane,” said Aurora Strauss-Reeves, a senior at Olympia High School. “As an 18-year-old, I have the ability to go buy a semi-automatic rifle and I don't want any of my classmates to have that ability.”

After signing a law that would ban bump stocks in Washington State by July 2019, Governor Jay Inslee agreed with raising the legal age for rifle purchases.

“We do not allow someone to buy a pistol until they are 21, but on their 18th birthday, someone can go and buy a semi-automatic and that just doesn't make sense,” Inslee said.

But, some Republicans object to raising the legal age limit, especially State Sen. Phil Fortunato of Auburn, who has been pushing for gun training for school staff.

“If you are 18 years old, are you an adult or not?” Sen. Fortunato asked rhetorically. “If you are too stupid to buy a gun at 18, you are too stupid to vote, so what is it?"

But Frockt’s bill has been loaded down with amendments and may stall out before the legislative session ends on Thursday.

One of those amendments comes from Fortunato.

It would set aside state funding for school districts choosing to have active shooting training done with a professional instructor. He said school districts are training themselves.

“That’s like having a teacher fix a car, you don't have a teacher fix the car you have a mechanic,” said Sen. Fortunato. “You have people who know how to do armed response.”

Fortunato has been promoting his own bill that would fund gun training for teachers and school staff.

Gov. Inslee thinks that’s a bad idea.

“The law enforcement community says it doesn't make sense because it takes about six months to really train a person on how to respond to a shooting situation,” said Gov. Inslee.

The students chanted “No more silence, end gun violence" and “Vote now, Don’t wait” as lawmakers walked by their rally on Tuesday.

Johna Munsen, a senior at Ingraham High School in Seattle said she can’t wait to graduate.

“Because everyday it becomes more likely to experience gun violence in my school," she said.

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