PAWTUCKET, R.I. (AP) — High school students walked out of school in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, on Wednesday and rallied at city hall to protest inaction in Congress and at many state capitols on gun control.
Organizer Zachary Pinto, 17, said his fellow students told him they were frustrated, angry and in pain after the last week’s shooting at a Uvalde, Texas, grade school. That spurred him to lead students out of the Charles E. Shea High School in Pawtucket when the bell rang for lunch Wednesday. They were joined by other local high school students. The group of more than 150 students converged at Pawtucket City Hall.
Pinto, a junior, said they feel like politicians nationwide “would rather protect guns than children.” He led a chant to call out the names of the 21 victims of the Uvalde school shooting.
Democrats in Congress have been trying to expand background checks and otherwise boost gun control laws since a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012.
As the U.S. mourns the victims of its latest mass shooting, Democratic governors nationwide are amplifying their calls for greater restrictions on guns while many Republican governors are emphasizing more security at schools. Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee has renewed his call for the General Assembly to pass legislation this session to ban high-capacity magazines and assault weapons.
Pinto, who supports the proposed bans, said schools like Shea High School need more counselors to help address a wide range of mental health issues, rather than a greater police presence. He said a Shea student died over the weekend of a drug overdose. The students also want local officials to address a “severe lack of resources” and the need for repairs at Shea, Pinto added.
“I want them to just care,” he said. “To just look at the conditions of our school, look at our youth and genuinely care.”