School Shootings

Romeoville High School “modifies” walk-out after Instagram threat

By Patrick Engel
Medill Reports

Romeoville High School students participated in 17 minutes of silence in their gym in lieu of a walk-out protest that was canceled early Wednesday morning as a result of a prior threat posted by a student on Instagram.

The school’s decision to postpone the walk-out came early Wednesday, after Romeoville police found the threat not credible.

“We told them we’d have to modify our plans from what we had originally had planned to go outside,” Principal Derek Kinder said, “just because of the perceived threat and the uneasiness from some of our parents and students.”

Instead of participating in the nationwide walkout movement, about 1,100 students filed into the southwest suburban high school’s gym around 10 a.m. Wednesday to commemorate the 17 shooting victims in last month’s attack in Parkland.

Romeoville High School has an enrollment of about 1,800, but Kinder said around 1,300 students came to school Wednesday, with the threat playing a role in the low attendance. Kinder also said the school would make up the originally planned “assembly” at a later date. Romeoville police officers were stationed outside school Wednesday as a precaution.

The Instagram threat posted Tuesday showed a picture of a student with a weapon. Police said that one person posted the picture and others followed it with comments about the school not being safe the following day. Police contacted the student who posted the photo and determined that the weapon was an air-soft gun.

“There was never a threat that was communicated or intended,” Romeoville Deputy Police Chief Steve Lucchesi said.

“No one had the intent for it to be a threat and go viral.”

The uncertainty surrounding the threat prompted the cancelation of a counter-protest planned outside the school during the walk-out. Romeoville resident Savannah Denvir, in conjunction with right-wing group Overpasses for America, organized the counter-protest, but canceled it after talking with police.

“A few of them, maybe five or so, still came anyway,” Lucchesi said. “But it was peaceful. There were no issues.”

Kinder said the counter-protestors were not a concern and didn’t influence the decision to postpone the walk-out.

Amid high school walkouts, Chicago college students make voices heard

By Robbie Weinstein
Medill Reports

Most Chicago colleges and universities joined high schools across the nation in staging walkouts on Wednesday, protesting gun laws and violence in the wake of the Parkland shooting.

Students from Northwestern University, Truman College, Malcolm X College, Roosevelt University, Columbia College and the University of Illinois at Chicago participated to varying degrees. Some demonstrations only took place in the morning at 10 a.m., but others had broader scopes.

Northwestern hosted a daylong menu of events, starting at 10 a.m. Students held a walkout and moment of silence, along with a letter-writing campaign aimed at politicians.

But come afternoon, a hoax caused chaos on campus.

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Protestors and pro-second amendment activists counter Chicago-area walkouts

By Chris Kwiecinski
Medill Reports

As tens of thousands of Chicago-area students walked out in protest of school shootings, gun owners, conservatives and students alike found ways to make their opposing voices heard.

Students stayed inside and gun owners launched counter protests to make their pro-gun stances known on a day that featured many anti-gun themes.

Bob Garza, a gun owner and member of Illinois Gun Owners Together, said students should be concerned about violence taking place in schools, however students with political agendas should not have been allowed to participate in the walkout.

“Once you allow them to take time off to express political events, you have to let them take time off for other political events,” Garza said. “If you’re going to be fair to everybody, you can’t pick and choose every time you’re going to apply the rule.”

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Chicago-area students walk out in protest of school shootings

By Serena Yeh
Medill Reports

At Oak Park and River Forest High School Wednesday morning, around 1000 students, many wearing orange in solidarity, walked out of their classes at 10 a.m., carrying signs protesting gun violence while marching around their school compound.

At Evanston Township High School, almost all 3,500 students entered their football stadium to chants of “Enough is Enough” and “NRA, Go Away.”

As they filled the bleachers, the students were given papers with a script template and 12 legislators’ phone numbers.

After listening to speeches from student senators, the ETHS students huddled in groups of twos or threes and made calls to pressure the lawmakers.

These students were among tens of thousands from elementary to middle to high schools to colleges across Chicago and the suburbs who marched out of their classes at 10 a.m. to protest gun violence and to stand for the victims of last month’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, where 17 people were killed.

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Photo Gallery: Students walk out to protest against gun violence

By Giulia Petroni and Ilana Marcus
Medill Reports

In solidarity with the National Walkout Day, students across the Chicago-area walked out of their classrooms to protest against gun violence.

The 17-minute march — a minute for each life lost in the Parkland shooting — is intended to pressure U.S. Congress to pass gun control legislation.

At Evanston Township and Oak Park and River Forest high schools, students, parents and community members marched and held signs to say “enough is enough”.

Photo at top: Walkout at Oak Park and River Forest High School. (Giulia Petroni/MEDILL)

Illinois senators join the movement against gun violence

By Kaitlin Englund
Medill Reports

Showing solidarity with students across the nation, approximately 100 Illinois senators, lobbyists and staff walked out at the Capitol in Springfield Wednesday morning to remember those who have died from gun violence in Chicago and throughout the United States.

“We are here today, not as politicians but as colleagues committed to working together with one another on behalf of students, teachers, police officers, parents and all members of our community who should be able to live or work or learn or worship or do anything else without the fear that their lives are in danger,” said Sen. Chris Nybo R-Elmhurst at the walkout.

The walkout, streamed live by the several sources, took place in front of the Capitol building at 10 a.m.

Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake who organized the demonstration, read some of the stories of the victims of the Parkland shooting while members of the Senate held up photos of those slain.

Afterwards, they held a moment of silence to remember Chicago Police Commander Paul Bauer, who was shot and killed while on duty last month.

Bush said she thought the demonstration had a great turnout and saw it as a chance to support students regardless of party affiliation.

“This was a chance for us to come together in a bipartisan way,” she said. “This is really about hearing the students, hearing the young people … We just want them to know that we are hearing their voices.”

Later Wednesday, the Senate approved bills that ban bump stocks and trigger cranks, extend the waiting period for assault weapons to 72 hours and increases the age of purchase for assault-style weapons.

Gun stores see rise in profits amidst post-Parkland gun legislation

By Chris Kwiecinski
Medill Reports

Sales in Illinois gun stores have risen in the past month, as gun owners fear their firearms will be confiscated or gun costs will rise due to potential legislative changes, gun-store owners said this week.

The potential new laws stem from reaction to the Parkland shooting last month.

According to Todd Vandermyde, executive director of Federal Firearms Licensees of Illinois, the first mention of stricter gun laws sets off a chain reaction that always seems to lead to panic among gun owners.

“Any time the government moves to restrict firearms in a very brash or broad way, usually it sets off a small panic buying,” Vandermyde said. “It generally spurs gun owners to stock up and make the purchases they were contemplating and had been putting off.”

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After Parkland, a Surge in Advocacy, Illinois Groups Say

By Nathan Rizzo
Medill Reports

Following the Parkland shooting, the opening lines to this latest act in a tired, nationwide drama are being written: Gun control is, once again, in play.

A new cast, however, may be waiting in the wings.

In Illinois, lawmakers on Wednesday will vote on whether to bar individuals under 21 from acquiring certain firearms and high-capacity magazines, and to impose a 72-hour waiting period for gun purchases.Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed a bill one day earlier that would have newly applied licensure requirements to gun dealers.

Rauner said the “duplicative” measure would have proved financially burdensome for firearms retailers while doing “little to improve public safety.”

Yet, advocacy in support of legislative efforts to both regulate and deregulate firearms has taken on a newfound poignancy in the wake of the Valentine’s Day killing of 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Prominent groups on both sides witnessed a surge in interest following the shooting, they say, with significant input from volunteers – some of whom were previously on the sidelines.

“It’s because we’re all from here,” said Eileen Soderstrom, 71, a retired IT specialist and board member of People for a Safer Society, a Chicago-based gun-control group.

“We’re motivated by gun violence in Chicago. People are concerned that young people in society are in

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Educators push back against guns in schools

By Kaitlin Englund
Medill Reports

As the one-month anniversary of the Parkland school shooting nears, and lawmakers debate provisions for gun safety and reform, Chicago-area educators say that arming teachers is not a viable solution and challenge the nation’s leaders to find alternative solutions.

“I think it’s so beyond ridiculous,” said Matt Walsh, a history and psychology teacher at Evanston Township High School. “The solution to guns is not guns.”

Walsh is not alone in his sentiment as other teachers have called the idea “wild,” and worse, and declare they are completely against arming teachers in schools.
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Immigrants wonder, worry about gun culture

By Serena Yeh
Medill Reports

More than 30 years ago, Satnaam Singh Mago’s grandfather was murdered by gun in the United Kingdom.

“For my mom, it took her about maybe 20, 25 years after her father’s death where she could actually talk about some of the dark things that happened to him,” Mago, a youth mentor at the Sikh Religious Society, said. “It was very hard. It affected my family tremendously.”

Mago, 33, a second-generation American in the United States, now actively participates as a speaker and panelist against gun violence and advocates for commonsense gun laws and for people to take an academic approach toward gun culture.

On Feb. 21, a week after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, Mago joined an interfaith panel against gun violence at the Libertyville Civic Center in the northern suburbs.

The Florida shooting also sparked activism from the surviving students, who are rallying through news appearances, town hall meetings and social media to call for tighter gun control. This has caused a push back from the National Rifle Association, which continues to argue that Second Amendment rights be protected.

Amid this debate and with the recent series of mass shootings, immigrants to the United States are left wondering about the country they have moved to – a country they believed would provide a better life. Some have chosen to speak out, others have opted to be more cautious about the places they visit, rejecting crowded events like concerts, while some others have considered buying guns to protect themselves.

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