On the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High school shooting, students at Laramie High School joined young people across the country who walked out to make their voices heard on gun reform.
Katie Kvenild was the first student in her 9th grade biology to stand up and head towards the door for the 10 am walk out. She said despite her strong commitment to her beliefs, she was still nervous.
"Because no one stood up with me, but then when I was actually out of the room, I felt good and empowered," said Kvenild. “I felt ready and I got super excited when I saw everyone else walking out behind me."
But as a couple hundred students flooded out the front door of the school, a group of approximately 50 students splintered off to form a counter-protest.
Kvenild helped organize the protest, and she hopes it draws the attention of policymakers, and sends the message, "that we have a voice, we want to see a difference, we want to see logical gun reform, and better mental health care access to people who need it," said Kvenild. "And we want to keep our schools safe."
Ciara Johnson, who is in 11th grade, used a bullhorn to rally the crowd for stronger guns laws and more mental health care, but when she called for 13 seconds of silence in memory of those killed at Columbine, it was drowned out by pro-second amendment chants from students waving the Wyoming State Flag, as well as the Gadsden Flag with the words don’t tread on me.
Johnson said she was glad that students were able to express their opinions on all sides. "The only thing I would have wished for was that thirteen seconds," said Johnson. "I get that guns are important to you, but when it comes to lives I think that’s something that needs to be thought about."
Johnson wants to see even more young people engage politically, and for those turning 18, she said register to vote.