About 200 Juneau high-school students staged a walkout and rally Wednesday at the state Capitol, speaking out against gun violence in schools.

The joined peers nationwide one month after a shooting in a South Florida high school took 17 lives.

Students first gathered about one mile away outside Juneau-Douglas High School. They marched along back roads of the Juneau Hillside, passing Gov. Bill Walker’s mansion before approaching the Capitol.

They carried signs with slogans like "Save our students," "Enough" and "18th-century laws cannot regulate 21st-century weapons," shouting: “Who are we? Alaska students. What do we want? We want to live.”

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Students were joined by state lawmakers, Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott who didn’t address students but instead listened.

“We wanted to be here in the crowd and listen,” Walker said after the rally. “We wanted to listen and absorb, not necessarily jump up and grab a microphone, so this was our time to listen to the students. This was their day. I think they did a masterful job.”

JDHS sophomore Katie McKenna was one of two speakers delivering a message. She stood atop the Capitol steps looking out as her peers, who locked arms with each other.

“We have grown up in an era of school shootings: Parkland, Sandy Hook, Columbine, Virginia Tech and even Bethel, Alaska,” McKenna said. “In all of our years in school, we’ve done lockdown and ALICE drills, hiding in corners of rooms. Too many lives have been lost because our country’s lack of progress in fighting gun violence.”

McKenna inspired her loudest cheer with her parting comment.

“Weapons of war have no place in our schools. We are watching, and if you don’t act for the sake of our safety, you will be voted out by our generation," McKenna said. "When leaders act like children and children act like leaders, you know change is coming.”

McKenna has also testified before the Legislature on gun bills. After the rally, she said she wants adults and lawmakers to understand these are her peers being killed in schools.

“Our mission was to get change and action, and attention from our lawmakers and people of power from around the country, and for them to know we are sick of inaction and we are sick of growing up in an era of school shootings,” she said. “They are not in our classrooms. They don’t see it first-hand. A lot of that real connection is lost.  All of my peers, we know how to communicate with each other, past political barriers, and that’s what we do every single day. A lot of times when our legislators are trying to make decisions, there are political barriers.”

The rally lasted about 15 minutes. Then it was time to return to class.

Back inside the Capitol, the House Judiciary Committee continues to hear Rep. Geran Tarr’s gun bill. The bill empowers family members or law enforcement to remove guns from someone they believe may harm themselves or others.

More hearings on HB75 are scheduled for next week, when the committee will hear from the Department of Law.

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