PORTLAND, Ore. – Eight Oregon and Washington students shared their views on school shootings and student marches during a special half-hour KGW ‘Students Demand Action’ Town Hall on Thursday.
Students with varying perspectives on gun control and school safety joined KGW’s panel. They attend schools in Portland, Tigard, Clark County, Hood River, Adair Village, Oregon City and John Day. The panel discussion was led by KGW anchors Laural Porter and Tracy Barry.
Everyone agreed students should feel safe in school, but they disagreed on how to create a safer environment for students.
Lauryn Wilk, a student at Lincoln High School, said anyone can just walk into her school as the doors are unlocked.
"It's just a constant fear that anyone who has any anger towards us or wants to harm us can and they have that ability," she said.
Watch: Do you feel safe at school?
When asked whether teachers should be armed, most disagreed but some thought the idea makes sense.
“I don’t think arming every teacher is necessary but I do think if they’ve passed the concealed carry laws and they have the mental checks and background checks and even some additional training, I don’t see why they shouldn’t be able to carry on campus and protect us," said Russ Vela, a student at Santiam Christian High School.
Meghan Turley, a student at Tigard High School, disagreed. She said arming teachers raises several safety issues for students.
Eva Jones, a student at Hood River Valley High School, concurred.
“I think that arming teachers is a preposterous idea. We don’t need more guns in our schools. They’re a place of creativity, a place of learning,” she said. “We don’t need to be closing them down, locking them up. I will not learn in a prison-like environment.”
Watch: Should teachers be armed?
All of the students have lock-down drills at their schools, but the drills frustrate Jefferson High School student Mauricio Somilleda-Ruiz.
"During our lockdown drills it’s always very loud. I really don’t feel safe when this is how we practice for something that could potentially save our lives. I feel that staff shouldn’t only be trained better on how to react to these drills… but how they maintain the students calm, and how the students react to these drills not necessarily by screaming and having a fun time and making jokes about this, but taking this more seriously so if this does happen we are better prepared,” he said.
The students were also split on the idea of raising the legal age for gun sales.
"You can vote for the leaders of your country and die for your country but you can't own a gun? I don't believe in that," said Tanner Elliott, a student at Grant Union High School.
Wilk said she will follow the lead of Parkland student Emma Gonzalez if lawmakers don't make a change.
"I'm turning 18 in two months. I'm already a registered voter. If they don't want to change anything... then we will vote them out," she said.
While the students disagreed on how schools and lawmakers could keep students safe, they agreed that these conversations are a good place to start.
"It's so important we're having these conversations with people who have opposing views" said Oregon City High School student Adam Marl. "I think we need to come together and say we aren't interested in policy that moves us to the left or right. I'm interested in getting policy passed that moves us forward."
School shootings are a very real threat for students across America. After 17 people were shot and killed by a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in February, students around the country took a public stand against gun violence by demanding action from lawmakers.
Kids in schools across America, including many in the Portland metro area, walked out of school on March 14 and will demonstrate on Saturday during the ‘March for Our Lives.’ They are calling for lawmakers to tighten restrictions on guns by raising the legal age for gun purchases, banning bump stocks and outlawing the sale of assault-style weapons, among other demands. Many Democratic lawmakers support these proposed changes.
Not all students feel strongly about changing gun laws. Some believe students would be safer if some teachers were armed, a view that is shared by President Trump, several other elected officials and the National Rifle Association.
In Oregon, a ballot initiative that would ban assault weapons has been proposed for the November general election. The group that proposed the initiative must gather 88,000 signatures by July 6 to get the measure on the ballot.