Local students organize pro-gun rally

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Columbia Falls students join a walkout in March as part of a group that said it mourned the loss of life at the mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school, but suppored gun rights. (Jeremy Weber photo file)

Three area high school students are planning to lead a pro-gun rights rally at Depot Park in Kalispell on Saturday. They hope to provide a platform for youth to voice support of the Second Amendment and responsible gun owners.

“Rally for our Rights” is being organized by Columbia Falls High School senior Braxton Shewalter and Glacier High School sophomores Cole Medhus and Grant Miller in response to nationwide student-led demonstrations advocating for tighter gun control such as March for Our Lives and the Women’s March #Enough National School Walkout.

These student-led movements stem from the February school shooting in Parkland, Florida where 17 people were killed.

“With the March for Our Lives event, we noticed a lot of pro-gun students’ voices were left out of the national discussion,” Shewalter said. “We feel right now is the best time to show that yes, there are indeed students who are pro-gun and there are responsible gun owners.”

Shewalter sent a press release Monday about the rally: “Our First Amendment and Second Amendment are under persistent attacks by the liberal media and government establishments abroad. Now is the time that we take action and advocate for our rights, and peacefully come together to voice our opinion that our rights shall not be infringed, and stand in support of millions of responsible gun owners and members of various gun groups across the United States.”

Activism is a fairly new venture for the teens.

“We felt, you know, it’s our responsibility to take action,” Shewalter said about being represented in the conversation on guns and gun violence.

Shewalter stepped into the role of pro-gun rights activist in March when he helped organize a counter protest at his school during a nationwide school walkout on March 14 and recently participated in “March for Our Guns,” during the March for Our Lives event in Helena on March 24.

Medhus, who designed a website for the rally, hasn’t participated in activism before, but felt strongly about this issue and for students who felt similarly to have opportunities to be heard.

“I’m learning that people appreciate that the youth on both sides are standing up and making a statement,” Medhus said about the current momentum of youth-led activism. “I think people think that’s a good thing. It shapes America no matter what side you’re on. That’s what I’ve heard and that’s what I’m learning.”

What do the teens think are solutions to gun violence?

“It’s definitely a nuanced type of answer. There are a lot of ways to approach this,” Medhus said.

The teens believe the problems lie with current laws and gun regulations, such as background checks, not being properly enforced. They also talked about the failure of law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, to act on information or tips relating to people with histories of violence, domestic assault or mental illness.

Rally for our Rights will begin at noon Saturday in Depot Park. The teens have setup a GoFundMe page online to raise funds to cover costs related to permit fees.

The teens plan to speak at the event in addition to Joey Chester, Montana State University student and Republican candidate for House District 63.

For more information visit https://www.rally4rights.com.

Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or hmatheson@dailyinterlake.com.

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