"We're pretty tired of our legislators caring more about guns than students' lives," said University of Idaho sophomore Addie White.
At the walkout, participants listened to speeches from high school students like Colette Raptosh, a lead organizer for the Women's March; community leaders; and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paulette Jordan who, standing amid a forest of young faces, told the crowd, "This is about you claiming your power." They chanted slogans like "NRA go away," and afterward laid on the ground in silence while the names of the victims of the Parkland shooting were read. Finally, many ventured inside the Capitol itself, where they swamped three full floors of the building amid calls for action to stem gun violence.
The NRA has long history of making donations to members of the Idaho congressional delegation. According to research done by The Washington Post, Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson is among the members of Congress who has received the most in contributions from the National Rifle Association over the course of his career, a total of $43,750. Behind him in the Idaho delegation is Sen. Mike Crapo ($29,300), Sen. Jim Risch ($13,900) and Rep. Raul Labrador ($8,100).
For many of the students involved, however, the walkout was about more than holding lawmakers and gun rights groups accountable: It was about flexing their civic muscles. Calling herself a member of "Generation Columbine," Raptosh told the gathered students that she grew up with the possibility of school shootings, but young people still have the power to shape the world.
"Each and every one of you can make a change that can move mountains," she said, addressing the crowd.
Felix, an eighth grader at Anser Charter School, echoed Raptosh's sentiment.
- Harrison Berry
- Following speeches by activists, participants in the school walkout observed a moment of silence while laying on the ground as the names of Parkland victims were read.
Claire, another Anser eighth grader, said the shooting had been on her mind, and that she and her friends "decided to take it one step further and take it to the Capitol."
There were many others who felt the same way:
"I think it's important that we can show up for things and exercise our rights," said Tacet, who will graduate in 2020 from One Stone, a local charter high school. "Young people aren't going to back down. We are the future."
"I came out of here to let people know we're here and students have a voice," added Zoe, a member of Tacet's class.
Though guns and gun violence inspired the walkout, there were no specific calls for policy action. There was, however, widespread concern about the Second Amendment. Talking about her history class, Boise High School senior Acey Norris said she didn't "remember a time when more weapons meant peace and protection."
"Look at all the other countries that have banned assault weapons," said Mackenzie Willis, a Westminster College sophomore.
"Americans don't need to defend themselves from the things that they did [then]," said Whitman College freshman Celena Marsters, referring to the time period when the Bill of Rights, which contains the Second Amendment, was drafted.
"We have to do something about these laws," said Gillian, a Boise High School junior. "It's our world now."
The walkout took place with neither approval nor disapproval from the Boise School District. In a letter sent to the parents of Boise high school students, the district asked parents to reach out to schools as they would to excuse any other absence from the classroom, and in a wide-ranging interview with Boise Weekly, BSD Assistant Superintendent Coby Dennis said allowing students to participate in the walkout was "about honoring our students' voices to be heard."
"It's about giving students an opportunity," he said. "If they have an opinion, they need to be heard."