Cuyahoga Falls High School Students Form Local March for Our Lives Club
Staff Report, 07-23-2018

Stephen Mulé
Two Cuyahoga Falls High School students have formed a local activism club of March for Our Lives in hopes of addressing the increasing number of school shootings in the United States. Ellie Balit and Patrick Catanese formed the local club leading up to their organized walkout at Cuyahoga Falls High School on March 14th, protesting what they saw as congressional, state, and local failure to take action to prevent gun violence after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida left 14 students and 3 faculty dead, and 17 others wounded.

According to the national organization, March for Our Lives was formed to advocate for universal background checks for gun purchases, create a searchable database of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, fund the Centers for Disease Control gun violence research, and ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Catanese said the Akron club’s goal is to also give a voice to students who are not yet eligible to vote, and “to discuss local events and have conversations.”

Catanese and Balit both stressed their support for the 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution, which grants citizens the right to bear arms, but Catanese said “common sense gun laws are definitely the main message of this national movement.” Specifically, this includes education for gun owners to prevent accidents and holding gun owners responsible when their weapons are used by minors in shootings—including school shootings. Balit added that “restricting access for those who have proven themselves irresponsible is key. Someone with violent crime convictions or severe mental health issues has no business owning a firearm.”

Balit and Catanese feel their voices should be heard regardless of their age, which can be an obstacle to discourse with their elders. “Our generation is the first to grow up with school shootings being the norm. We are the ones who grew up looking over our shoulders our entire childhoods… we deserve a say in how to solve the issue,” Balit said. Some opponents of March for Our Lives argue schools are safer than ever, but the legitimacy of these arguments is of no consequence to Catanese, who stresses that no amount of school shootings is acceptable. “It’s bad enough that we even have school shootings at all,” he said.

The March 14th walkout at CFHS was successful in bringing attention to the issue of school shootings and produced discourse throughout the community on the subject. In the future, March for Our Lives - Akron hopes to organize a Town Hall meeting with Congressman Tim Ryan and possibly organize protest events, including another walkout.

More information about March for Our Lives - Akron is available on the group's facebook page:

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