Children "sad and frustrated" seeing fellow students die

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COLUMBIA – Students across the nation are taking a stand for greater gun control. In Columbia, students at Rock Bridge High School are leading the way.

Sophomore Rachael Erickson and Kanchan Hans, along with others, are organizing the local “March for our Lives” event Saturday.

“There is no other way for people my age to have their voices heard,” Erickson said. “I can’t vote. I won’t be able to vote for a few more years now.”

Both Erickson and Hans said they were inspired by the actions of the Marjory Stoneman Douglass students.

“That just kind of sparked something in me and a lot of people at Rock Bridge,” Erickson said. “It was the first time that we really figured out that we could do something about it as kids, as students, as high schoolers.”

Hans said it made her realize her own power.

“In the past I might not have felt like I was powerful enough to do any actual change in my community, however this entire movement across America has shown me that students like me are able to do this and therefore that leads me to empowered and actual feel like I can make a difference,” Hans said.

Students organizing the event feel a multitude of emotions when they think about the events that led to the formation of the movement. 

“Sadness, because I’ve seen a lot of school shootings in my lifetime and I’m not very old and the fact that I’ve seen so many children my age killed is really just depressing,” Erickson said. 

She also has a fire within her.

“Also frustration because in my whole life every time there’s been a massive school shooting everyone thinks, ‘oh, this is going to change. This is going to be the one. Everything is going to be different,’ and it never really is,” Erickson said.

Hans uses her emotion to make the movement stronger.

“This March for our Lives is a very good way to channel that anger into making a difference in this community,” Hans said.

Their youth and the perceptions from the public doesn’t discourage the girls.

“I hope that they learn that kids my age are smart and we’re powerful and we’re able to do a lot of things,” Erickson said. “We can’t vote and we’re not adults yet, but we understand what’s happening and we’re smart. We’re well informed. We’re driven and we have the ability to make a real difference.”

Hans said the student-led movement is not losing steam.

“Actual change is coming to the country and these thoughts and prayers aren’t actually what we need,” Hans said. “What we need is for people to actually go out and make a difference, to go out ad talk to legislators and talk to our policy makers about what we actually need to do.”

Erickson said she never envisioned herself leading a movement for gun control, but when the need presented itself she couldn’t stay immobile.

“We’re tired of seeing children our age being killed and we’re tired of needing to be the ones stepping up,” Erickson said. “I don’t think I should be the one pushing for gun control legislation right now, but I am.”

Erickson said she dedicates around two hours per day to organizing the march. She said she won’t stop until people feel safe.  

“We understand why we have to be the ones doing this and we don’t want to be. We don’t want to have to take time out of our live to do this, but we do,” Erickson said. “We are going to keep doing it until we feel safe in school.”

After another school shooting earlier this week, it is clear that time hasn’t arrived yet.

“Even though this movement is so powerful there’s still an unending feeling of frustration that I need to make something change or nothing ever will,” Erickson said.  

The march begins at the MU Columns at 1:30 p.m. and ends at the Boone County Courthouse. Advocates for stricter gun control and school safety will speak at the Columbia Municipal court following the march.