Sherwood High School students took part in two sides of a demonstration around gun rights and gun reform Friday morning.
April 20 was the 19-year anniversary of a school shooting in Columbine that left 13 people dead. To show support for gun reform, students across the country took park in a school walkout at 10 a.m. — the second such walkout this year, after a similar demonstration on March 14 that was organized in response to a school shooting in Parkland, Fla.
A group of about 20 Sherwood High students took part in that walkout, and about 10 of their peers participated in a counter-protest in support of the Second Amendment.
Student Kate Hays was on the side of gun legislation reform.
"If you are a responsible gun owner, you shouldn't have a problem with us," said Hays, adding that she'd like to see stricter rules about who can purchase a gun. "I want to see politicians make it clear that they think that our lives matter."
Garrett Martin was among the counter-demonstrators. He said he uses guns purchased in his father's name for target practice and some hunting, and that he agrees that "there are some people with mental illnesses who shouldn't have guns."
The gun reform group, led by student activist Matthew Schantin, met in front of the high school at 10 a.m., then walked to Cannery Square in Old Town Sherwood, holding up signs and chanting along the way. The counter-protestors drove cars and trucks with American flags and "Don't Tread on Me" flags on them past that group, and also ended their route at Cannery Square.
Once the pro-gun reform group reached the square, they began writing letters to lawmakers, including Kim Thatcher, Sherwood's state senator. Thatcher voted against the recently passed "boyfriend loophole" bill, which prevents domestic abusers from being able to buy guns in Oregon, whether or not they were married to their abused partners.
"I'm writing to let her know that students care about this issue," Schantin said, "and that she isn't representing our values."
The group was joined by Ryan Spiker, a Democratic candidate for Oregon's House District 26. Spiker delivered a few words to the student activists.
"I sympathize with the students now who have to worry about that threat of it (gun violence) happening in their own schools, and they should be safe," Spiker said. He added that if elected, he would focus on passing legislation requiring people to "go through steps, get fingerprinted, take the training, to get the license to then be able to go purchase a gun. I think that's the bare minimum of what we can do."
A few organizers from Our Indivisible Revolution Sherwood, a local political group, also joined the pro-gun reform activists and set up a table to register voters.
Patrick Briggs, a member of the group, said he wanted to show the students that they have support from "at least a few people in the community."
The pro-Second Amendment group, which gathered at the opposite end of the square, played country music from their vehicles and congregated for about half an hour before driving away. Student Riley Paschall said that judging by his classmates' rhetoric and social media posts, he worried that they were trying to "take away our guns."
"We honor those fallen in Columbine," he said. "But they're saying it's guns that kill people… and it's really people who kill other people."