Amid a nationwide effort by high school students – including those in the Treasure Valley – organizing walkouts for 10 a.m. Wednesday, demanding better gun control in America after the recent school massacre in Florida, two Nampa High students say they’ve organized a counterprotest.
Porter Kindall, 16, and Ethan Schmerer, 15, are the co-founders of Arm Our Teachers USA, a group supporting teachers and security officers who want to carry firearms on campus.
The students estimated that at least 30 students would support them in the counterprotest on Wednesday.
“There’s a rising debate around gun control and it’s been a big topic of debate,” Schmerer said about students. “Really, the younger generation was really representing other side of it (promoting gun control.)”
Schmerer, a freshman, said he wanted to represent another side of the debate – meaning the possibility of allowing teachers and security to be armed. He said he wants to provide a “platform” for people with other opinions in the gun debate to speak out.
President Donald Trump’s administration has discussed arming teachers as an option after the shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, resulted in 17 deaths.
Schmerer said his supporters are between the ages of 14 and 19, but no one plans to bring a firearm to the protest.
“We want this to be as respectful and professional as possible, and the safety of those protesting is important,” Schmerer said.
Kindall said that in addition to teachers, he supports having armed security on campus. The school does have a school resource officer, who is a sworn Nampa police officer carrying a firearm. Nampa High also has some security officers around the campus, Kindall said, but they do not carry firearms.
During the shooting in Parkland, Broward Deputy Scot Peterson was armed and on the campus – part of his job as school resource officer – but he did not even go into the building where the shooting occurred, and radioed to other officers to stay away from two buildings in particular. He resigned from his job just days after the shooting.
Kindall said he had not spoken to any teachers at the school who wanted to carry firearms, but he said there would need to be “rigorous” training for those who could carry.
“I feel like they have go through to rigorous training to make sure they have mental stability and physical ability, it isn’t someone who is going to turn (negative),” Kindall said.
When questioned about the possibility of a student taking a teacher’s gun, Kindall suggested that teachers could keep a gun in a safe until it is needed in an emergency.
Teachers at Nampa schools currently do not carry firearms on campus.
“We do not have plans to arm our teachers and are not in discussions regarding the matter,” said Nampa School District spokeswoman Kathleen Tuck in an email Friday. “As with any walkout, students would need to be excused or will be marked absent.”
Many schools in Boise, the Valley and across the country are participating in the March for Our Lives, which is set for a 10 a.m. Wednesday walkout. Students plan to demand changes in gun laws to help prevent school shootings and mass shootings. The movement has been driven by the shooting survivors in Parkland, Florida, who created an outcry that the adults in government have failed to protect schools.
In a March 2 letter, the State Department of Education offered extensive guidance for school districts on how to handle the protest.
“The State Department of Education believes that the best place for a student during the school day is in the classroom with their teacher, but we recognize students’ rights to peaceful assembly and free expression,” wrote Matt McCarter, the department’s director of student engagement.
Nampa Police Sgt. Tim Riha said Friday that all of the Nampa high schools will have extra officers on scene in preparation for any demonstration. He said the department has not taken a stance on gun control in schools.
“This is a safe way for them to do whatever they need to do,” Riha said about the students’ protesting.
Schmerer said Arm Our Teachers USA also plans to counterprotest at the March 24 March for our Lives on the Statehouse steps in Boise.
In response to the Parkland shooting, Republican Gov. Rick Scott of Florida on Friday signed into law a measure imposing new restrictions on gun purchases. It raised the minimum age of purchasing a gun from 18 to 21 and imposes a three-day waiting period for most purchases of long guns, according to The Hill.