By Chris Kwiecinski
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.”
Garza also said students should be allowed to walk out if the walkouts were strictly about having a memorial for the victims in the Parkland shootings.
When it comes to students themselves, Garza said most of the students protesting were only shown one side of the argument when it comes to gun control.
“Ask them what’s the name of their state senators,” Garza said. “Most kids, damn near everyone at the grade school level, gets, at best, a superficial exposure to any particular issues. They certainly aren’t exposed to viewpoints on opposing sides.”
As students walked out from 10 a.m. for 17 minutes until 10:17 a.m., one minute for each Parkland victim, Romeoville High School was unexpectedly vacant, save for five pro-second-amendment activists.
In the span of 12 hours, pro-gun activists prepared to protest the walkout at Romeoville High, only to have the protest and the walkout cancelled due to multiple threats to the protest’s organizer.
However, five counter protesters decided to make the trek to RHS, even as the school cancelled its walk out.
Paw Paw native Mary Callison, one of the attending protestors at Romeoville, said there were two reasons for cancelling the protests: an Instagram photo of an alleged student holding a gun, and threats against the protest organizer’s daughter.
“We decided to show up anyway regardless if it being canceled,” Callison said. “We figured we could at least give our side of things to news media.”
Callison, who had no issue with the walk out itself, said she made an appearance to give a “pro-gun mom stance.”
“To me, it appears kids are being used as pawns in an anti-gun agenda,” Callison said.
“I honestly don’t have a problem with organized walkouts as long as they are peaceful and as long as those participating actually understand what they are doing,” Callison said. “I know two media outlets said we looked like were against kids.”
There was only one person present who opposed Callison’s views, but she said he was not inconsiderate, and the pro-gun squad did not engage him.
Callison added that the participating students were also being used in an anti-gun agenda.
“To me, it appears kids are being used as pawns in an anti-gun agenda,” she said.
Callison said, while that line of thinking sounds calloused, CNN didn’t waste time putting the Parkland students in the center of the spotlight.
Argo Community High School student Lukasz Dusza did not participate in the walk out at the Summit, Illinois, school, saying he believed the walkouts were being used as a tool to push an anti-gun agenda.
Dusza said he and an estimated 30 students refused to take part in the protest, a number that would have been higher had some students not missed school entirely as a result of the demonstration.
He pointed to the walkout’s organizers as proof the protests were politically charged, as they were the same organizers that coordinated the Women’s March.
“The fact that my school took time out of our schedule by shortening our periods truly demonstrates the bias that is present,” Dusza said.
Both Garza and Callison alluded to the main dispute in the gun-control argument — that guns don’t hurt people, it’s the people who harm others.
Callison, who nearly lost her sister in 2015 after she was stabbed 15 times and raped by a man who broke into her Willowbrook home, said she never blames the weapon in these situations.
“I never blamed the knife the monster used to assault my sister with,” she said. “It’s because, again, we don’t have a weapons problem. We have a people behind the weapons problem.”