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Student: Montana 'Gun Culture' Reason to March Against Violence Saturday

Students across Montana participated in a walkout last week to protest gun violence. (Helena Youth Against Gun Violence)
Students across Montana participated in a walkout last week to protest gun violence. (Helena Youth Against Gun Violence)
March 22, 2018

HELENA, Mont. – Montana students are joining nationwide protests against gun violence this Saturday and "marching for their lives." At least four marches are scheduled in the state, including in Billings, Bozeman and Missoula.

Montanans will take to the streets alongside the largest "March for Our Lives" in Washington, D.C., where survivors of the Parkland, Fla., shooting are urging Congress to pass gun-control measures.

In the wake of the Florida shooting, the group Helena Youth Against Gun Violence was formed. Isaac Mehring, a 13-year-old student at Helena Middle School and a member of the group, said politicians aren't doing their jobs, so kids are taking this issue into their own hands.

"We created this organization in order for us to educate on gun safety, as well as other things," said Mehring. "Especially in Montana, gun culture is a big thing and so, it's super important for us to be active in making the change."

The group is already having an impact. They've met with Gov. Steve Bullock and raised more than $3,000 for Saturday's march in the Montana capital, which begins at noon.

Opponents of gun-control measures say they aren't effective tools for preventing gun violence and infringe on Americans' Second Amendment rights.

Helena Youth Against Gun Violence stresses that its movement is about gun safety. The group is advocating for extended waiting periods to purchase weapons, and more background checks and firearms-training courses.

The students' goal is to be nonpartisan. Naomi Sweeney, a 14-year-old member of the group who also attends Helena Middle School, said gun violence threatens people across the nation.

"This is something that's not just far away across the country, in other states," she said. "This is a problem that could happen here, even in Montana."

Last week, students across Montana walked out of school to protest gun violence, and both Mehring and Sweeney gave speeches at their school.

The Washington, D.C., march is being organized in partnership with the group Everytown for Gun Safety. According to the March for Our Lives website, more than 830 similar protests are scheduled worldwide.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT