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Parkland shooting survivors visit CPS students to plan Chicago gun control march

Rieonna Holmon, 15, speaks at a press conference on gun control at Saint Sabina Church Saturday, March 17. | Rachel Hinton/Sun-Times

Survivors of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, visited Chicago Public Schools students Saturday to brainstorm ideas for next weekend’s March for Our Lives demonstration in Chicago.

The students’ meeting followed a week of walkouts at schools across the country, as teenage organizers continue their push for more strict gun control measures.

At a press conference at St. Sabina Church, former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan joined students who said they shouldn’t have to do the jobs of elected officials to keep them safe, arguing that their lives should matter more than “a piece of metal.”

Students noted that the national gun violence problem is especially pervasive on the local level in Chicago, where more than 2,700 shootings took place last year.

Now, riding the momentum of calls for change following the shooting at Stoneman Douglas, the hope is to introduce reform so that students may return to being students, they said.

“What happened in Parkland is injustice, and injustice there is injustice here,” said 15-year-old Rie’Onna Holmon, a student at Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep. “We’re too young to be here right now fighting for our lives, when there are people who are over us that were put in office to be fighting for us. But what are they doing? We should be living our lives because we are youth.”

Emma Gonzalez, Sam Zeif and Evelyn Schentrup — who lost her sister Carmen in the Parkland shooting — said they traveled to Chicago to show their support and to continue to urge legislators to pass “common-sense gun measures.”

Zeif said he feels the pain of the students in Chicago, calling it “heartbreaking to know they’ve been feeling this pain and fear for nearly their whole lives.” He said he hopes stronger gun control can curb that pain and fear.

“My personal goal for this is so that my younger brother, and even younger brother, and my kids and their kids, can go to school without having to worry for their lives,” Zeif said. “I want us to complete this campaign of gun reform and remove gun violence from our country so that no one has to go through what we’ve gone through.”

Organizers are expecting up to 30,000 people to take part in Chicago’s March for Our Lives starting at 11 a.m. March 24 at Union Park, one of dozens of marches planned across the country.