‘They’re being cowards’: In walkouts, Wisconsin students blast lawmakers for inaction on gun reform

STOUGHTON, Wis. — Scores of students streamed out of Stoughton High School on Thursday morning, part of a national student walkout protesting gun violence in the wake of a Texas shooting that left 19 elementary students and 2 teachers dead earlier this week.

In Monroe and Whitefish Bay, hundreds of other students also joined in. Other schools around the area are planning events and walkouts in days to come; students taking to megaphones today across the state had a message often desperate in tone: a sense they’d been here before, and could well be here again.

“The people who are making laws are not doing anything. They’re saying their hands are tied, they’re saying it’s too complex, when it’s really not,” said Stoughton senior Elizabeth Tessier, who graduates in a few days. “There’s so many things that we can do, and those that have the power to do so are not doing it. They’re being cowards.”

A stream of Stoughton high schoolers took to the back of a pickup truck with a megaphone with similar messages.

“When is it going to be enough?” one asked.

“It’s easier to get a gun than a therapist,” said another. “Let’s make it easier to get a damn therapist and harder to get a gun.”

Common themes among the messages heard from students on Thursday include appeals for universal background checks — a loophole that often allows gun purchasers to evade the standard background check when buying guns from private sellers or at gun shows. Polls have long shown broad support for the measure; a bill passing them has cleared the House of Representatives but stalled in the Senate after Republican opposition.

Others called for expanded mental health access and other common sense gun reform laws.

“I’m European, so for us, that is not something that happens,” said Febe Jarsma, a student in Whitefish Bay. “I think it’s ridiculous that that’s even going on.”

Students frequently referenced that there has been more than 200 mass shootings so far in 2022, according to the non-profit data collection organization the Gun Violence Archive. Thursday marked just the 146th day of the year.

“We are just so fed up. We cannot keep letting this fly,” Tessier said. “We’re trying to speak up for ourselves, the people that are being killed, because no one else is doing it for us.”