Hundreds of students nationwide walked out of their schools Wednesday to show support for their Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms.
The national demonstration, dubbed “Stand for the Second,” was organized by high school senior Will Riley of Carlsbad, New Mexico, in response to the wave of student-led, gun reform protests held in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting.
“We have not ignored the huge movement of our peers against these fundamental human rights and liberties, but the American people must know not all of our generation shares in the shortsighted destruction of our Constitution,” according to the event’s website.
Participants planned to walk out of their school at 10 a.m. local time to observe 16 minutes of silence ― one minute less than their peers did on March 14, during the National School Walkout to protest gun violence.
National School Walkout participants rallied for 17 minutes to honor the 17 people killed on Feb. 14 during the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Stand for the Second’s website explained what the 16-minute walkout on Wednesday represented:
In the spirit of civility with school districts around the country, we are asking for one minute less than the other side received. Additionally, it is estimated that in the US each year 1.5 million people use a firearm to defend themselves. Break that down to 16 minutes, and you have 91 people using a gun responsibly and correctly. We want to draw attention to the people who are legally and effectively exercising their rights.
Stand for the Second marked the first cohesive, student-led national demonstration in favor of gun rights since the Parkland massacre. While the scale of the event was noticeably smaller than the recent student-led gun violence protests, which have drawn thousands of demonstrators and national media attention, students from at least 40 states were expected to walk out.
“I am a concealed carry permit holder, and I am valedictorian of my high school. ... I don’t fit the media narrative. There are a ton of people like me who also don’t fit that narrative.”
Lucus Bendzsa, a senior at West Vigo High School in Terre Haute, Indiana, said he planned to participate in the walkout Wednesday to “show that not all high school and college kids are leftists against” the right to keep and bear arms.
“We are all not ideologically aligned as much as the media portrays us as such,” Bendzsa told HuffPost in an email. “We are, as Kayne West said, ‘independent thinkers.’ We form our own opinions and we are stout in what we believe.”
Bendzsa said he believes the Second Amendment to be the “most imperative” of all the constitutional amendments.
“It is the amendment that secures all of the others,” he said. “It is the amendment that guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of religion. It is the amendment that guarantees the right of equal protection under the law.”
Not all students who support the Second Amendment were in favor of the walkouts. Kyle Kushuv, a survivor of the Parkland shooting and outspoken gun rights advocate, tweeted Wednesday that “disrupting” classrooms wasn’t the right thing to do.
For his part, Bendzsa said it’s important to challenge what he feels is the media’s incorrect narrative surrounding gun rights advocates.
“It’s not all a bunch of uneducated rednecks like the media portrays,” Bendzsa said. “I am a concealed carry permit holder, and I am valedictorian of my high school. ... I don’t fit the media narrative. There are a ton of people like me who also don’t fit that narrative.”
“Us millennials are not cookie cutters,” he continued. “We are all unique and different with our own ideas.”