Boise March For Our Lives calls for gun policy changes
When the fire alarm goes off at Jefferson Middle School in Caldwell, Katelyn Benavidez said instead of asking if there was a fire, students ask if there is a shooter.
Benavidez, a seventh- and eighth-grade social studies teacher, said sounding the fire alarm may be a strategy snipers use to kill more people as they evacuate. The prevalence of school shootings across the country has heightened concern.
“A lot of kids face that reality every day,” Benavidez told the Idaho Statesman.
Benavidez was one of hundreds on Saturday afternoon at the Idaho Capitol to participate in the March For Our Lives rally in response to recent shootings, including the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 19 students and two teachers. Speakers called for policy changes in hopes of less violence.
Across the street on the south side of West Jefferson Street, protesters held guns, wore Second Amendment-themed clothing and shouted during the rally.
Benavidez said her classroom door swings open rather than in, so she couldn’t barricade it in an emergency. It also has no windows, making a potential escape more difficult. Lockdown exercises, she said, are filled with fear, anxiety and doubt.
“Can I save a student if I had to? Would I be able to protect myself? Would I be able to return to my workplace if something were to happen? Benavidez said. “There is a lot of confusion about what would happen, why it would happen, where it would happen. All these things – it’s really hard to describe.
Benavidez was holding a sign that read “I’m a teacher, not a human shield.” Around the perimeter, it listed locations where school shootings had taken place. At the top was Saugus High School, where Benavidez graduated and where a gunman killed two others and himself in 2019. She remembers the feeling of watching friends and teachers she knew on TV be escorted out of school. His favorite legislation is raising the minimum age for assault weapons, universal background checks, red flag laws and licensing.
“I grew up with lockdown drills,” Benavidez said, “and now I’m a teacher and I want to see them go away in my teaching career.”
Tara Marie, one of the speakers at the rally, said she survived the 2017 Route 91 Harvest music festival shooting in Las Vegas that killed 58 people.
Ten days before the Uvalde shooting, 10 people were killed in a supermarket in Buffalo, New York.
“I don’t have enough time between shootings to heal,” Marie told the crowd.
“We all need to listen to each other and talk to each other,” Marie said. “Let’s leave politics and agendas at the door.”
Throughout the rally, chants erupted: “Save our children.” And later, “Enough is enough.”
On the other side of West Jefferson Street, protesters shouted, “Arm our teachers.”
Deborah Chalmers was among the crowd holding guns. She had a handgun in a holster on her hip. She wore a sign around her neck that read “Moms for Guns.”
She said she took care to “protect my Second Amendment rights.”
“All of our freedoms given to us by the American Constitution are being eroded, I believe,” Chalmers told the Statesman. “I think we have to take a stand.”
Chalmers said she views guns as a means of protection rather than inflicting violence.
“My big concern is that if you start taking one thing, they’ll start taking the other things,” Chalmers said.
Amaia Clayton, one of the organizers of March For Our Lives, told the crowd that “it’s flatly not true” that people advocating for less gun violence want to take the guns off. Clayton said she has taken hunter safety training and supports responsible gun ownership. She said high school students and some teens like her weren’t allowed to vote but would be the ones affected by a school shooting.
Another organizer, Simon Richardson, said he was tired of being afraid to go to school and living in fear.
Clayton encouraged people to reach out to elected officials and demand changes. There was a poster in front of the podium that said “Find your legislator”, along with a QR code. People held signs and walked around the Capitol before using chalk to write messages on the sidewalk.
Ayla Birch, another participant, grew up hunting with her father while living in Gooding, north of Twin Falls. She was also a middle school teacher in Nashville, Tennessee, and during lockdown drills she remembers being terrified of her students.
Students would ask him, “Are you sure it’s not real?”
Last week, Birch was inspired to help Moms Demand Action, a group that aims to end gun violence. She handed out stickers on Saturday. She was holding a sign advocating mandatory background checks, raising the age limit for buying guns to 21, enacting red flag laws and banning assault rifles and high-capacity magazines.
“My two daughters shouldn’t worry about going to school,” Birch said.
This story was originally published June 11, 2022 5:26 p.m.