Western New York students call for tougher gun rules
Clarence High School students led a rally against gun violence in schools Wednesday. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says dozens of students held a peaceful demonstration at the corner of Harris Hill and Wehrle Drive in Clarence.
Students marched through Sunset Park to the street corner where motorists responded to their rallying cries, sounding their horns in support.
Students waived signs with many messages calling for gun reforms in the wake of last week's deadly school shootings in Parkland, Florida where a former student killed 17 students and teachers with an AR-15. Students chanted “save our schools” and “not one more”
"Basically I kind of felt powerless after I heard what happened,” said Andy Kowalczyk, Clarence High School senior.
Kowalczyk organized the protest. He said citizens have a right to own guns, but there must be more controls.
“Well I think first and foremost, we want to be safe and one of the ways to do that is certainly by making it far more difficult to get an AR-15, which is a semi-automatic rifle. The ease at which people are able to get at – that would be the number one thing I would want to address,” remarked Kowalczyk.
“Considering you can’t buy a pistol when you’re 18 – you shouldn’t be able to buy an assault weapon when your 18 – that’s ridiculous,” noted Lucas Cousins.
Cousins recently graduated from Lancaster High School. His message to congress is more restrictions for buying guns especially when it comes to mental health issues.
“There should at least be stricter gun regulations on assault weapons – no one should be able to come in with an AR-15, especially an 18-year old.
“Not one more. Not one more,” chanted the students.
The students rally was across the street from the local office of Republican Congressman Chris Collins. Collins supports a focus on mental health, not gun restrictions.
WBFO received a written statement from the congressman's communications director Sarah Minkel. She wrote the following:
“While Congressman Collins realizes that there is no easy answer to this crisis, he is supportive of President Trump’s commitment to ban bump stocks and improve our nation’s background check system to prevent dangerous weapons from getting into the wrong hands. The devastating events in Florida were an act of a deranged individual with a long history of behavioral problems, and Congressman Collins is committed to advancing solutions focused on mental health and other options that prevent individuals like this from having the opportunity to carry out these horrific actions. This is an important discussion we are having as a nation because all students deserve to feel safe in their schools," Sarah Minkel, Communications Director, Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27).
Students say they want to be heard-calling on lawmakers to listen to their voices. Some even waived signs that stated “Listen to the Kids, not the NRA".
“I think it’s pretty powerful – it shows that us students can come together and voice our opinions on what we think is right and what we think needs to be done,” said Chloe Esch, Clarence High School junior.