Pro-gun control students plan a 50-mile march to Paul Ryan’s office
March For Our Lives and its hundreds of sibling marches may have ended Saturday, but a group of Wisconsin students decided to keep walking in support of the movement’s cause — all the way to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s office in Janesville, Wisconsin.
The students, many of whom attended local Wisconsin marches Saturday, set out Sunday morning from Madison, the state’s capital. Drawing inspiration from the 54-mile civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, in 1965, the students have dubbed their protest walk “50 Miles More.” They hope their 50-mile trek to the Republican congressional leader’s office will help keep the spotlight on gun reform.
Katie Eder, an 18-year-old senior at Shorewood High School in Shorewood, Wisconsin, said the idea for the march grew out of watching the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivors organize Saturday’s massive protest. Eder, and fellow senior Brendan Fardella, 17, wanted to meaningfully contribute to their efforts.
“If change is going to happen, it needs to be a rolling movement,” Eder said. “How can we keep this in the news cycle for as long as possible?”
The students settled on marching dozens of miles over four days, during their spring break, to Ryan’s Janesville office. They coordinated bus transportation for students, found high school gyms where they could sleep along the way, and relied on parent supporters to provide meals. They expect around 40 students to march the full distance, and they have the assistance of medically-trained volunteers. The march will culminate in a rally outside of Ryan’s office.
Eder founded a nonprofit creative writing organization while in middle school, but she had no experience working on gun violence prevention prior to last month’s shooting. Fardella had never been involved with activism before teaming up with Eder. Though both attend an affluent high school that’s been ranked a top school in the state by U.S. News & World Report, Eder and Fardella decided to take the same inclusive and intersectional approach to their march as their peers in Florida.
“One of our big goals is to connect the conversation between mass shootings and school shootings with the conversations about the gun violence that happens every day, all across this country,” said Eder. “It’s a shame that it’s taken this long, but it’s important we include everyone in that conversation.”
The students’ demands include banning “military-style weapons” and accessories that turn semi-automatic weapons into automatic weapons. They also want background checks and a four-day waiting period on all gun sales.
Eder and Fardella said they’d reached out to Ryan’s office via social media but hadn’t yet received a response. Mashable contacted Ryan’s office for a comment about the students’ march and did not receive a reply.
Met with Nicole Hockley, @SandyHook Promise founder, to discuss programs they’ve developed to keep our schools safe from gun violence around the country. Pleased that today’s vote on the bipartisan STOP School Violence Act builds upon these programs to keep our schools safe. pic.twitter.com/AjmkwzTPBk
— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) March 14, 2018
While Ryan recently supported the Stop School Violence Act, that bill focused on identifying threats of school violence rather than addressing access to firearms. Ryan has previously won an “A+” rating from the National Rifle Association.
Eder and Fardella said they’ve invited students from across the state to write Ryan a letter, pressing him to act on gun reform. So far, they’ve been encouraged by the response to their efforts.
“What’s really cool about this movement is the youth rising up and sharing their voices,” said Eder. “I always say youth may only be 25 percent of the nation’s population, but we’re 100 percent of the future. We’re trying to make that future a safe one.”