A group of students from Rockledge High School in Brevard County briefly walked out of class Friday to show their support for the Second Amendment.
About 75 students, according to a head count by school administrators, walked onto the school’s track carrying the American flag and signs that said “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” and “I support the right to bear arms.” The event lasted about 20 minutes and then students returned to class.
The demonstration was organized by Chloe Deaton, a sophomore, and Anna Delaney, a junior, who are part of Rockledge High’s Criminal Justice and Legal Studies Academy.
Deaton — who was wearing a T-shirt that read, “my rights don’t end where your feelings begin” — said the event was meant to clear misconceptions about the Second Amendment, not support or oppose any particular political stances.
After the playing of the national anthem and “God Bless America” over the loudspeakers, she told the group of students, “We were built on certain rights and that was one of the original rights, that we should have the right to bear arms.”
Delaney read a quote from former President Ronald Reagan, who at a 1983 banquet for the National Rifle Association said, “The Constitution does not say that government shall decree the right to keep and bear arms. The Constitution says ‘… the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.'”
The walkout comes after the National Student Walkout on March 14, when students from 2,800 schools across the United States walked out of class for 17 minutes to protest gun violence. That event came one month after the shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stone Douglas High School that left 17 dead.
At least 15 schools in Brevard had walkouts, including Rockledge High School, where students stood on the football field to form a heart.
Deaton said it was important to make sure other students’ voices were heard. Some students who participated in Friday’s Second Amendment walkout wore camouflage clothing and President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” hats. They carried “don’t tread on me” flags and black-and-blue-striped American flags that are often used to show support for law enforcement.
“It’s all over the news right now that all students hate guns. I wanted to show that not all students feel that way,” said Zachary Schneider, a junior at Rockledge.
Although organizers said the event was not endorsing any specific political beliefs, many students who participated said they do not support a new law that raised the legal age to purchase guns, and would support a marshal program to train and arm school staff to respond during an active shooter situation.
“I finally got old enough to buy my own ammunition and my own guns, and I lost it again,” Schneider said, referring to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.
The Safety Act, which was signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott in response to the shooting in Parkland, raised the legal age to purchase guns from a licensed dealer from 18 to 21; puts in place a three-day waiting period to purchase long rifles and other long guns; and bans the sale and possession of bump stocks, devices that make a semi-automatic weapon shoot nearly as fast as a fully automatic weapon.
The law also implements regulations to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.
The Safety Act did not ban assault-style weapons, like the AR-15 Nikolas Cruz used to kill 14 students and three adults at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day, ignoring a call from some of the shooting’s survivors.
Daniel Howard, a freshman, compared banning some types of guns to banning spoons because they make people fat, cars because they make people drive drunk or pencils because they make people misspell words.
Event organizers and participants said they were disappointed the student walkouts on March 14, marking a month since the Parkland shooting, turned political. Deaton said the original purpose of the student walkouts was to honor the victims of the shooting, but parents and social media warped the message to support gun control.
“In the beginning, it started as a memorial to the Parkland students. And that’s how it should have stayed,” Deaton said.
Walkouts in Washington, D.C., and the March for Our Lives event March 24 was organized by some of the Parkland students who survived the shooting.
Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg — Marjory Stoneman Douglas students who have become the face of the movement for safer schools and tighter gun laws — have specifically called for a ban on assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines.
Unlike many of the students who turned out to march across the Eau Gallie Causeway as part of the local March for Our Lives rally in Melbourne, students at the Second Amendment Rockledge walkout on Friday said they support implementing a marshal plan to train and arm school staff.
“If they (school staff) are capable, we should allow it. They’re just going to tell us to hide during a school shooting?” John King, a junior, said in disbelief.
“I personally believe it’s a good idea, as long as they’re trained and have the knowledge,” Delaney added.
Under the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, the state provided $67 million for local sheriff’s offices to develop programs to provide training to school districts, if local school boards approve the program.
Before the law was passed,Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey proposed a similar program to the School Board that would train anonymous school employees who volunteer and allow them to carry a gun in a concealed holster on their hip. The School Board has not taken a stance on the proposal yet.
Vickie Hickey, principal of Rockledge High School, said the school treated Friday’s event exactly like it treated the walkouts that took place March 14. She said both events were completely student-driven.
Caroline Glenn is the education reporter at FLORIDA TODAY. Contact her at email@example.com or 321-576-5933, or follow her on Twitter @bycarolineglenn and like “Education at Florida Today” on Facebook.