As we reported Monday, students in the Bangor area are planning school walkouts Wednesday to urge lawmakers to make schools safe from gun violence. Students at other Maine schools are also planning to join in the national walkout to demand tighter gun control laws. They are seen as a way of preventing future school shootings, like the one in Parkland, Florida last month.
Tasha Hipple is a student at Casco Bay High School in Portland and is one of the organizers of student walkouts in the Portland area. She spoke with Maine Public Radio's Morning Edition host Irwin Gratz.
GRATZ: Tasha, good morning. You know, there have been several threats of gun violence and arrests here in Maine since Parkland. What's been your reaction to that news?
HIPPLE: It's just showing how realistic it is and how it's become part of our reality, which is completely horrible. I think that it's kind of shocking our community and making them realize that it could happen in Maine.
GRATZ: Some of these instances do go back a number of years as well. Were you as aware of this before Parkland?
HIPPLE: I do remember, like, when I heard about Sandy Hook I would be in the hallway and when someone would walk in I would be kind of scared, and, like ,make sure that they didn't have a gun. I think that that's a horrible new reality for us.
GRATZ: Why do you think a student walkout will be an effective response to this?
HIPPLE: If our leaders see that we want a big change to happen - because we are not OK with the gun laws in our country right now, and I think that they need to know that. I think that they will actually listen to us because we are the ones who are going to have to live with these changes.
GRATZ: Of course, mass shootings haven't just occurred at schools. One of the more recent examples is the shooting in Las Vegas. Is there anything that makes this particularly a school issue?
HIPPLE: Yes, it is a problem in schools. There have been school shootings. But I think that this is more of an all around gun violence issue. School shootings are an issue. Police brutality is an issue. Innocent people of color being killed is an issue. All gun violence is an issue.
GRATZ: What particularly would you like these school walkouts to accomplish?
HIPPLE: I want to get a message across to our leaders that we demand stricter gun laws. I personally do not have the power to change our laws, but this is what I can do.
GRATZ: Are there any particular gun laws that you'd like to see rise to the top of any legislative agenda?
HIPPLE: Yeah, I do not want military weapons in the hands of a civilians. I want there to be much stronger background checks. I want there to be a bigger waiting period. I think that guns should have to be registered, because if a pet has to be registered I think that a gun should, because a gun has the capability of instantly killing a human. Pets are much less dangerous than an AR-15.
GRATZ: What about people who do own guns and use them legally? We have a lot of hunters in this state, and people who, perhaps, are just gun collectors. What do you say to them?
HIPPLE: I have an uncle who hunts - rhat's how they get their food for the family. So I understand that guns are a big part of Maine's economy and a big part of what Maine is. I want them to know that we're not going to go taking away your hunting guns, but you don't need, like, a gun that is meant to kill people to go hunting.
GRATZ: Are you aware, of course, that given the history, given the Second Amendment, given some of the political forces that are arrayed on the other side, this will not be easy?
HIPPLE: If it were easy, then the change, I think, would have been made a while ago. It takes people rising up and making the change and doing something. I'm going to send letters to Senator Collins. I'm going to go to the March for Our Lives in Washington D.C. It's not easy. Nothing is easy in our government. But if we actually want to change, I think that we can make this happen.
GRATZ: Tasha thank you very much for the time - I appreciate it.
HIPPLE: Thank you.
Tasha Hipple is a student at Casco Bay High School in Portland, and one of the organizers of student walkouts planned in the Portland area.