As communities and students around the country participated in March for Our Lives gatherings in an effort to get state and federal legislators to pass tighter gun control measures, Homer residents held an impromptu gathering at Wisdom, Knowledge, Faith and Love Park in downtown Homer.
A local political group, Citizens Action Network, organized the gathering of about 60 people after members realized no march was planned. Hal Spence was one of the organizers of the impromptu gathering.
“This is everybody’s issue. It’s marvelous and wonderful that kids are becoming energized by that,” Spence said. “Because after all they’re going to be the leaders in 10, 15 years. It’s important that they get politically active. I’m really encouraged that some of those people are on the verge of being able to vote, I like that.”
There were few students at the gathering, but Homer High School Sophomore Marina Greear said the pushback against students around the country asking for stricter gun laws has been frustrating.
“The main reason I came out here is because I’m very upset that people believe because I’m young, I can’t have an opinion,” Greer said. “I feel like if I’m old enough to get shot, I’m old enough to have an opinion on getting shot. I think it’s incredible that people don’t see that.”
Greear said she would like to see background checks tightened up in particular and more restrictions on those with mental illnesses who want to buy firearms.
That’s something Zane Boyer, who graduated from Homer last year, agrees with. Boyer said the recent movement, sparked by students from Parkland Florida after 17 people were killed in a school shooting there, has made gun control his number one voting issue.
“I really connected because these are people I see as other students. These are the same age as me and my friends. Something just clicked,” Boyer said. “I want to do whatever I can to make sure people try and fix this issue, and I really hope that involves voting at the midterm elections.”
A handful of teachers and school counselors were in attendance. Homer Flex High School Counselor Ingrid Harrold held a giant notepad with different messages on each page.
“I have a million reasons to be out here today. That’s why I brought a flip chart,” Harrold said. “Our schools need to be safe places, and I think the way that we can make that happen is to arm teachers with resources, and I think would support more counselors and mental health programs in schools, restorative justice and trauma-informed care. I think these are the ways we need to go to makes schools safer places and not through arming teachers.”
Harrold was joined by colleague and Math and Science teacher Lindsay Martin. Martin also agrees that arming teachers is not the way to go.
“I don’t want guns or weapons in our school,” Martin explained. “I think that people that feel that way don’t have any mal-intent, but I’m here as a teacher with a different perspective to advocate for the fact that arming with pencils and arming with pens and graph paper and calculators is the most effective way to keep our students safe.”
The gathering lasted about an hour. This comes about a month after roughly 130 Homer High School students walked out of class and formed the number 17 on the football field in honor of the people who died in the Parkland shooting.