A walkout for all the right reasons

On Wednesday, Women’s March Youth EMPOWER is calling for a nationwide walkout in honor those killed in the massacre at a Parkland, Florida, high school earlier this year and to protest gun violence. Some students, instructors and officials at Southwest Minnesota State University are expected to join the walkout between 10-10:17 a.m. at the flagpole in front of the Student Center.

According to a Facebook post, the SMSU protest is aimed at Congress’ inaction to curb gun violence and demand sensible gun control legislation.

The right to join with fellow citizens in protest or peaceful assembly is critical to a functioning democracy and at the core of the First Amendment. In fact the First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

And students at SMSU have the right to join in Wednesday’s protest. In fact, it’s good to see citizens on both sides of the gun rights issue join in a conversation about gun violence.

Our lawmakers need to hear from all sides, because some measures are desperately needed to prevent possible future mass shootings. Organizers of the walkout make some good points:

• Students and staff have the right to teach and learn in an environment free from the worry of being gunned down in their classrooms or on their way home from school

• Parents have the right to send their kids to school in the mornings and see them home alive at the end of the day

• We are not safe at school. We are not safe in our cities and towns

in addressing these concerns, lawmakers don’t have to focus on gun control as the only viable solution. This nation needs to address mental illness and school security as well. Targeting these areas will require government spending. But it would be money-well spent if it saves lives.