Kapaa High students call for gun reform

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Several hundred students from Kapaa High School brave the morning rains to participate in the Walkout, Wednesday at the school’s bus turnaround area.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Kapaa High School students Lani Alo and Kasiah Vercelli lead a moment of silence at the 17 empty chairs set up, Wednesday during the Walkout by Kapaa High School students.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Kapaa High School student Victoria Hennessy places lei on each of the 17 empty chairs symbolizing the 17 victims who were shot at school a month ago, Wednesday during the Walkout at Kapaa High School.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    A Kapaa High School student holds a poster bearing the names of the 17 shooting victims, Wednesday during the Walkout at the Kapaa High School.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Walkout leaders Lani Alo, Alexia Derego, Kiana Haroldsen and Kasiah Vercelli with some of the signs from the Walkout, Wednesday at Kapaa High School.

KAPAA — Seventeen lei decorated 17 empty chairs at Kapaa High School on Wednesday morning, as hundreds of students gathered in a downpour.

“It’s far too simple a process to buy a gun in this country and that needs to change,” said sophomore Kasiah Vercelli, who organized the school’s participation in the national walkout day.

She continued: “We want to have actual change. We can’t wait for the next shooting, we have to do it now.”

Tighter restrictions on the background of those able to buy guns, as well as raising the age requirement to buy firearms to 21 are examples of changes the students are demanding.

About 500 students voluntarily left class and gathered outside at 10 a.m. for a 17-minute show of solidarity, which included a moment of silence and student speeches with the goal of pushing lawmakers toward firearm reform.

Signs with phrases like “Books Not Bullets,” “Fear Has No Place Here,” and “Enough is Enough” dotted the crowd, more than 300 strong.

The event was part of a national student demonstration one month after a gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida killed 17 people.

Students quoted school shooting statistics and highlighted not only the 17 names of those killed, but also spoke about those who died in past mass shootings.

“This is no longer the land of the free and the home of the brave,” said Kiauna Haroldsen, another student at Kapaa High School. “This is the land of the feared and the home of the afraid.”

Kapaa High School voices are strong enough to be heard on Capitol Hill, students said, and efforts to push for gun reform will continue through online petitions and social media.

Walkouts were also held at Island School and Kauai High School, and 22 students from Kauai High School visited the U.S. Capitol for the National School Walkout Rally, meeting with Sen. Mazie Hirono on Wednesday.

“So many American students, led by the brave, articulate survivors of Parkland, are standing up, sharing their stories and calling for change,” Hirono said. “I’m inspired by their determination and will continue to fight alongside them as we work to pass sensible gun safety legislation and an end to gun violence.”

Alexia Derego, a senior at Kapaa High School, joined Vercelli to organize the walkout after deciding to do her senior project on gun violence and then discovering Vercelli was starting a school walkout movement.

“We’re really proud of our school today,” Derego said.

Honoring the victims of America’s mass shootings and calling for gun reform were the reasons for the demonstration, but Vercelli said the bottom line is the need for people to feel safe in their schools and communities.

“The shooter in Florida never should have been able to get a gun. We’re calling for common sense gun laws,” she said. “And it’s human nature, people get around blockades and it’s hard to stop people, but it’s (tighter gun legislation) going to make it a lot harder.”

Ensuring safe schools expands beyond the realm of gun reform to include arenas like mental health and bullying, Vercelli said, but she thinks targeting firearms law is the most effective path to safe schools.

“There needs to be a focus both on gun reform and mental health, but it’s easier to fix a legislation problem than a people problem,” Vercelli said.

  1. No_They_Didn't March 15, 2018 12:15 am Reply

    Stop them at the doors or gates. Or front lawns. Meaning security is high.

  2. Michael G. Ching March 15, 2018 4:17 am Reply

    Great to see the tomorrow generation getting involved. Register to vote and make sure you VOTE that is the only way to insure change.

  3. Clifton March 15, 2018 7:01 am Reply

    My dad had guns, his dad had guns. Growing up we respected our elders and knew right from wrong.
    We knew not to go in our parents closet to look at “the gun”, for if we did we would be disciplined like no other.
    Times have changed, it’s not “the gun” it’s society and how we teach/love our children to make smart decisions in life.

  4. gordon oswald March 15, 2018 7:52 am Reply

    Those dam$% guns better stop killing people! It’s ok that broken homes, no father present, depression, ADHD, drugs, marijuana, violent video games awarding points and making heroes for the most people you can kill, movies making heroes out of killers, and all the rest, are being force fed into our society and children like Pablum to a baby! No need to mention those! It’s simply “THE GUNS”, you know those things that good honest Americans use for their self protection and the protection of our society in case of collapse, anarchy, or the police are 1 minute too late!! Socialism and confiscation is a slippery slope!! Ask Hitler, Stalin, Marx, Pol Pot, and the other worst humans in history. It worked for them!

  5. Dude March 15, 2018 8:26 am Reply

    Time to end public (government run) schools.

  6. LMat March 15, 2018 8:33 am Reply

    Great job students in organizing and rallying for smart legislative change!! Giving guns to teachers is not the solution!
    Disappointed that Waimea High School did not participate in the walkouts…?! What’s up with that Principle Anguay…?

  7. Kip Goodwin March 15, 2018 8:57 am Reply

    Thank you, students of three Kaua`i High Schools. “Teach your parents well”.

  8. livealoha March 15, 2018 11:37 am Reply

    So proud of your leadership skills and for patiently standing in the rain during the 17 minute presentation!

  9. David March 15, 2018 11:38 am Reply

    I bet they don’t even know the process to buy a gun in Hawaii let alone in the country. We have some of the strictest gun laws already and only 2 or 3 gun stores on Kauai. Media/Liberals is using them to push their agenda by giving free trips to Washington and 17 minutes out of class.

    1. Kelly morgan May 22, 2018 1:45 pm Reply

      That’s what I thought!
      Easy? Give me a break! It’s not easy at all.

  10. Arnold Leong March 18, 2018 8:54 pm Reply

    Someone intent on ending lives doesn’t need to buy a gun. They can borrow, steal, take a family member’s gun, so many ways to get a weapon. Knives, axes and other “killing weapons” have and can be used. Even one victim is too many. We need to address the mental state and what moved them to become killers. Something happened along the way, bullying, cult conversion, whatever, because they weren’t born that way. The teaching of Christianity certainly doesn’t condone that kind of behavior. Sometimes you need to go into reverse to get ahead, and this is one of those times. Allow Christianity back into our schools. Don’t force it, just allow it for those who chose it.

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