Schools were closed Wednesday, but that didn't stop Boston-area students from stepping out in solidarity with others around the nation.
Following the lead of student activists who have carried the flag for gun control since the deadly school shooting last month in Parkland, Florida, high schoolers across Massachusetts joined the chorus of voices calling for tougher gun laws.
Coinciding with a national school walkout organized by an arm of the group that led the January 2017 women's marches, Boston high school students had planned to leave their classrooms at 10 a.m. Wednesday. But due to a snow emergency from Tuesday's storm, classes were canceled. In lieu of a class walkout, local students instead called for action at the Massachusetts State House.
Nathalie Diaz, 16, of Boston Latin Academy said she came out Wednesday to help students in states that have much more lax gun laws than Massachusetts. “I’m here for those who lost their lives in Parkland and who lost their lives in other school shootings. … I’m here to advocate for more gun regulation. … It could have just as easily been my school or any other school.”
"Since we live in Massachusetts, a state that does have very good gun regulations, we’re very lucky and we don’t realize that," Diaz said. "It’s not like other places, so it is our duty to stand up for those who don’t have that."
Eighteen-year-old Katie Hankin, a student at Hamilton Wenham Regional High School, said she and her friends traveled to Boston to represent their town and fellow students. “We want to speak out and be there for the students of Parkland and all the students who have died. We are here for students and our school safety, and that’s what we want to promote.”
Hankin said she and her peers were motivated to take action after the Parkland massacre.
"It's brought our community together in saying, ‘We need to change now.’ There are too many students dying all over the country. … We need to do something about it now.”
After their demonstration, students met with lawmakers on Beacon Hill to discuss school safety and gun control.
After a noon rally on the State House steps, students participated in a speaking program in Gardner Auditorium before visiting with state legislators until 3:30 p.m. There they met with lawmakers to talk about bills filed by Reps. David Linsky and Marjorie Decker, which would each establish "extreme risk protective orders" through which courts could prohibit a person from owning a gun for one year in certain circumstances, including threats of violence.
One of the organizers of the march, Charlotte Lowell, said the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland forced high school students to think more seriously about gun violence and to add their voices to the national debate over gun laws and school safety.
"Before the Parkland shooting, it was not at the forefront of many people's minds — administrators or students. We definitely were pretty uninformed and even a little bit indifferent about gun violence because most of us had never experienced it before," she said. "But following the Parkland shooting, I think a lot of students in my school, in Massachusetts and in the country, are suddenly very engaged and involved because finally we have said this is enough and we don't want to feel unsafe in our schools."
Derek Kouyoumjian and State House News Service contributed to this report.