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Our opinion: From walkouts to nationwide marches, students are becoming activists; that's a good thing.

PHOTO COURTESY OF ABBY JONES - Abby Jones, a sophomore at Mountainside High School, shot this photo of Saturday's march. Jones was there as a protester and also as a journalist, to document the moment.There are valid opinions on every side

of the issues of guns and violence. And as a society, we'd be wise to pay heed

to all perspectives.

But it's hard to imagine anyone not being inspired by the young people who marched on Saturday, March 24, to protest the issue of gun violence.

The passion, the knowledge, the energy of these young people were amazing. You can agree with the premise that we need laws to reduce illegal gun violence, or you can disagree vehemently. But everyone can — or should — agree that seeing young people politically active is intrinsically a good thing.

The Times had staff out at the Portland rally, as did several of our sister publications. We got to talk to the students, and also some parents and grandparents.

Let's first do away with the notion, currently making the social media rounds, that these young people are pawns, being manipulated by leftist grownups for nefarious intent.

Nope.

We spoke this weekend to students from Tigard, Sunset, Westview and Mountainside high schools, and from Laurel Ridge Middle School in Sherwood, among others. These kids were not there under duress. They were not "clueless" or "sheep," as we've seen argued. They had passion about an issue that is important to them, they had cogent arguments, and they took up their Saturday — a cold, drizzly Saturday, mind you — to make sure their voices were heard.

There were some adults on hand to support the kids. But there's a word for people like that: Parents. We spoke to several parents who said they came to back up their children, and they shared the opinions of their children. But to twist that to mean students are being manipulated is ludicrous.

Some of our staff have been covering education issues for decades. We remember a time — 1990s, we're looking right at you — when students didn't seem to care about any major social issues. There were years in which the biggest protests we heard were about the lack of student parking.

To see teenagers galvanized, fired up and loud is a blessing. Even if we or readers disagree with their opinions, surely everyone would agree that activism trumps indifference.

On Wednesday, March 14, students around the nation walked out of their schools to protest gun violence. It happened at local schools, too. But in Sherwood, several students flew American flags from their cars in support of gun ownership and the Second Amendment.

Those students deserve our praise, too.

This newspaper is on record supporting a ban on sales of assault-style weapons, and a federal buy-back program to get some of the already-sold weapons off the streets. We also supported the so-called "boyfriend" loophole to get guns away from domestic abusers, and a 2017 Oregon bill to make it easier for judges to remove guns from people deemed to be at risk to themselves and others.

But in the case of students protesting in support of gun ownership, we say: Go for it. Students from the left and the right, from pro-gun and anti-gun positions, are encouraged to take advantage of our letters to the editor and the opinion columns at right. Students: If you have a well-reasoned opinion, we have a platform. Let's hear from you.

Meanwhile, if you're a student and you're trying to make political change in our world, we applaud you. Activism beats apathy: full stop.

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