ALLEGAN, Mich. — Hundreds of high school students across the country walked out of their schools to protest gun violence and in honor of the 19th anniversary of the Columbine Shootings. Austin Marsman and Matthew Cogar joined the protest. However they stayed in front of their laptops at the Allegan Tech Center.
“We’re not walking outside,” said Cogar during an interview at the center. “We’re calling. We’re emailing. We’re sending texts. We’re writing letters. We’re doing everything we can.”
The two said they spent part of Friday reaching out to their local politicians saying “enough is enough." They want laws changed. They’d like to see a ban on bump stocks and strict background checks for people who want to purchase guns.
“School safety is No. 1,” said Cogar who’s in favor of a banning assault weapons. “There’s no need for them.”
Marsman said people convicted of domestic violence and sexual assault should not have concealed carry permits. People who are on the terrorist watch list shouldn’t have access to guns.
“This is an issue that shouldn’t fade from the headlines,” Marsman continued. “They need to know we demand action.”
One politician they’ve been reaching out to is Senator Tonya Schuitmaker (R-Lawton). The students said she condemned their protest on March 14 which was in response to the deadly shooting at Marjory Stonemason Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. They said she deemed it "unacceptable" and said she was "disappointed" in them. The students, along with 10 others, have since called her over a dozen time and have gone to her officer hours whenever she’s in town.
“I did receive a form letter from her and it offered thoughts and prayers,” said Marsman holding the letter up in his hands. “Thoughts and prayers are great but we demand action. We want action here.”
In a response to FOX 17, Schuitmaker said, in part:
"I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, was endorsed by the NRA … and support putting dangerous criminals in prison. The horrific shooting in Florida occurred because a violent student was never held accountable, not because of law-abiding gun owners or the Second Amendment. …” Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker (R - Lawton).
“It kind of makes us sad to see that our lawmakers don’t care,” said Marsman. “It’s almost like the NRA means more to them than our lives.”
Cogar said many students are afraid to go to school. Since the Parkland shooting happened, many of his peers have come to class wondering "if they’re going to die." They're scared. So he and Marsman are going to continue to fight for gun reform.
“We will not stop until our voices are heard and there’s change,” said Cogar. “We will not stop until there is change. It’s as simple as that. We will not go away.”