Jackson students walk out of school to protest gun violence

JACKSON — Hundreds of students left Jackson Hole High School at 10 a.m. Monday to protest gun violence in response to recent mass shootings such as the Uvalde, Texas, massacre, where an 18-year-old gunman killed 19 elementary school students and two teachers.

“This could happen to us any day,” said sophomore Ben Murphy. “School shootings are happening more than ever… I think it’s an important thing that we all address.”

Accompanied by teachers, mounted patrol members and Principal Scott Crisp, the high schoolers walked a brisk 20-minute route to the middle school before returning to class.

A handful of students carried signs urging people to protect lives, not guns. Others stayed outside to write the names of gun violence victims on the bike path in chalk.

“Sadly, it does take something like a walkout, something that disrupts the school day and disrupts our town’s functioning, to really get people to listen a little bit more,” said junior Sophie Lamb, one of the organizers who was inspired by similar student activism across the country.

“We just want to stop feeling scared when we’re in our classrooms,” Lamb said.

Beyond recognizing gun violence as a tragedy and a threat, many of the students who spoke with the Jackson Hole Daily also saw it as preventable.

“Wyoming has some of the least restrictive gun laws in the country. And people are talking about giving staff firearms. That’s definitely not a solution,” said sophomore Axl Koch.

Several teachers who walked with the students Monday declined to comment. Crisp said school employees were primarily there to keep students safe while allowing their voices to be heard.

“Trying to get people to understand and balance the normal day with honoring student voices is important,” he said, adding that normalcy is tough to achieve right now.

“I think with any traumatic event, it takes time, it takes healing. It takes education [and] being an advocate,” Crisp said. “I do think there needs to be actual care and a plan in place to make sure they can go to school safely. So we’re constantly working on that and trying to improve every year.”

One of Lamb’s classmates, Acacia LaPrade, planned a separate protest against gun violence for 6 p.m. Monday on Town Square.

LaPrade saw similar protests on TikTok and said it is “encouraging and hopeful that our town could do the same.”

Lamb and LaPrade both said they hoped the protests were just a first step.

“I would love to engage in further conversation with folks across the state who are opposed to further gun regulations,” Lamb said, “and kind of figure out a way to navigate that space in order to ensure our own safety.”