‘The students will win’: Parkland survivors stop in Utah as part of nation-wide tour
SANDY — Lucas Larsen, a high school student from Smithfield, drove over an hour and a half to see the Parkland, Florida, school shooting survivors speak Saturday.
Larsen, who organized the Sky View High School walkout March 14 to remember the victims and to protest gun violence, said the trip was worth it.
“I felt that is was worth it to spend the gas money to come here and show my support for the Parkland students (and) for also the March for Our Lives SLC because they honestly do so much for the movement,” Larsen said.
Larsen was joined at the Mountain American Credit Union Expo Center by more than 1,000 people who supported their message and some who didn’t.
The town hall was part of the “Road to Change” bus tour, a nationwide event launched June 15 in Chicago by the school shooting survivors and March for Our Lives organizers. The event started later than scheduled because the bus transporting the Parkland students was stuck in traffic.
The event focused on encouraging students to vote in the midterm elections and be involved in the community.
Saida Dahir, a local organizer with March for Our Lives SLC, said school safety is an issue older generations didn’t have to deal with as much.
“I was in elementary school when Sandy Hook (shooting) happened and I was in high school when the shooting in Parkland happened,” Dahir said. “That is 14 years of education where I had (to) fear a man or a woman coming into my school and shooting me.”
Dahir encouraged students to keep using their voice to create change in their communities.
“Hate will not win,” Dahir said. “We will rise and the young people will win.”
The town hall zeroed in on U.S. Rep. Mia Love, who has received $61,900 from pro-gun groups, according to a report by the Center for Responsive Politics.
Elizabeth Love, a local organizer with March for Our Lives SLC, called on the politician to support a bill that calls for universal background checks and said “she is not representing the people.”
The town hall also addressed the argument that armed people with good intentions could prevent deaths by gun violence.
Kyrah Simon, a soon-to-be senior at Marjorie Stoneman High School, said that belief shows “a greater attachment to guns than human life.”
Collin Thorup, 16, is a student at Hunter High School in West Valley. He said he supports the Second Amendment and sometimes feels he gets attacked if he talks in favor of it. He spoke at the town hall and asked the group to work together to find common ground.
“There’s no hate from our group and I also agree there’s no hate from your group,” Thorup said. “We just want to come together.”
Prior to Saturday, March for Our Lives SLC had a hard time securing a venue for the town hall. Initially, the event was going to be held at Salt Lake Community College, but then it was moved to the Megaplex Theatres in South Jordan.
Megaplex Theatres canceled, citing security concerns after the Utah Gun Exchange, an online gun market, encouraged its members to attend the town hall.
About 40 counter-protestors were outside the expo center Saturday night wearing pro-gun T-shirts.
Sam Robinson, Utah Gun Exchange co-owner, thanked some of the students for being open to a dialogue and asked them how both groups can work together to improve school safety besides just focusing on gun control.
The group said it is addressing the need to better train school counselors and is working with other groups across the country to raise awareness on mental health issues.
David Hogg, one of the Parkland survivors, said both groups want students to be safe in schools and everywhere else. However, he called out Utah Gun Exchange’s presence at the event.
“We have to cut the crap,” Hogg told the Standard-Examiner. “Utah Gun Exchange is following us to increase their sale and notoriety using the media as their tool to destroy the truth that the youth of America are standing up against the gun lobby and corrupt politicians to save our lives because our parents won’t.”