Students from across Ohio shake up statehouse


Allyson Garth

Matthew Youkilis, '19, addresses State Senator Cecil Thomas at the Ohio statehouse in Columbus. Thomas represent's Ohio's 9th district, he was receptive to new ideas from the students.

Following the school shooting in Parkland, Fla. that killed 17 people, SENIORS Em Marmer and Micah Kraus had an idea. An idea to send kids from all around Cincinnati and the state to Columbus to lobby the statehouse with the help of Reform Ohio, an advocacy group led by Jewish Rabbis.

On March 14, following the 17-minute walkout in honor of Parkland’s victims, Marmer and Kraus led a group of nearly 40 WHHS students on a school bus bound for Columbus, along with about 70 other students from around the city. They met with many state representatives and senators, and tried to influence their opinions on gun control.

“We were very inspired by the students in [Parkland] Florida, especially the teens that went to the statehouse in Tallahassee to lobby,” Kraus said.

“For a while now, [our Jewish youth group] has been discussing doing something like this… and we thought this would be the perfect opportunity…” Marmer said.

It is still unclear if real change will be made, but this visit can really affect current legislation in the statehouse right now. Kraus noted that a few pieces of legislation that the group is really advocating and lobbying for are SB 150, SB 219 and SB 260.

SB 150 would prevent people convicted of domestic abuse from buying guns, SB 219 would ban “bump stocks” that increase a firearm’s fire rate dramatically and SB 260 would ban assault-style weapons completely.

“When I introduced [SB 150], I couldn’t even get a hearing in this chamber.” Ohio State Senator Cecil Thomas, who represents Cincinnati, said of SB 150.

Another controversial bill, HB 228, known as the “Stand Your Ground” bill, which would make it easier to use lethal force in self-defence, has already been tabled after Gov. Kasich’s promise to veto it.

Kraus said that the group would also lobby against the bill. With his promise to veto HB 228 if passed, Kasich broke his eight year promise to “sign every 2nd Amendment bill” during the last few months of his second term. State Representative Alicia Reece, who represents Cincinnati, said of the Governor’s decision, “He would not have done that without you guys.”

“What we’re doing now is looking at ways to make you all feel much safer in your schools,” Thomas said to a group of WHHS students. Marmer and Kraus, when speaking to lawmakers, advocated against allowing teachers to have guns, following the passage of a bill in Fla. that allows it. The public is widely split on the issue, with 50 percent of voters for the measure and 43 percent against it, and seven percent undecided, according to a Feb. 26 Politico poll.

Thomas also spoke about specific measures he is looking for in upcoming legislation in the State Senate. “I want to close all the loopholes in the .. gun shows… I’d like to raise the age. You gotta be 21 to buy a firearm… I want to ban assault rifles, we don’t need AR-15 assault rifles in the hands of folks, it’s a weapon of war,” said Thomas.

With young people now participating in the political process more than any time before in recent history, lawmakers must pay attention.

“I think we are harnessing this energy that we gathered… and that can translate into positive action.” said Marmer.

Allyson Garth
Students met with State Senator Joe Uecker of Ohio’s 14th district. The discussed potential plans of action on gun control.

Rep. Reece noted the partisan divide present in legislators’ stances on these proposed measures. “I think there are some on the other side that want to make a move but are afraid that in an election year that they could lose because the NRA would put money up for their opponent,” she said.

Continuing their efforts, other WHHS students along with school officials have planned a bus trip to Washington, D.C. on March 24 to participate in the March for Our Lives; a national march on the Capitol Building led by survivors of the Parkland shooting in Fla.

The March for Our Lives’ purpose is to “demand that [students’] lives and safety become a priority and that we end gun violence and mass shootings in our schools today,” according to their website.

“I think it’s great … there’s going to be a huge amount of people, and it’s very powerful to have so many young people…” Kraus said of the D.C. march.

Both Marmer and Kraus plan on attending the D.C. march. Over 500 “sister marches” are planned worldwide, including one in Cincinnati. Cincinnati’s march will start at 11 a.m. at City Hall on March 24. “There is a movement afoot and these young people are the ones that created that movement,” Thomas said.

Since the school shooting in Parkland, WHHS has hosted its own walkouts, and it proves that this country’s youth is now demanding change. It is now up to Congress to heed these warnings, and make the change that is now loudly demanded.