Students Enjoy Broad Support for Planned Protest of Gun Violence

(CN) – Thousands of students and teachers plan to walk out of their classrooms Wednesday to protest mass shootings and to call for stricter gun control legislation, and a new poll finds over 7 in 10 Americans support their right to do so without reprisal.

The Marist Poll, a national public opinion poll operated by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, found 72 percent of respondents feel students participating in the National Student Walkout should not face disciplinary action by their schools. Another 22 percent said students should be disciplined if they walk out, while 6 percent are unsure.

Seventeen people were killed and 17 others were wounded Feb. 14 at a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In the wake of the tragedy, student-led actions, town halls and advocacy events calling for gun control have swept the nation and the #Enough movement has put elected officials in the hot seat over their stance on gun control.

Asked whether the students from Parkland who have been calling for gun control will have a major or minor impact on national gun control legislation, 77 percent of respondents said yes.

In fact, the students have already had an effect on the national gun debate. This past week, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill raising the minimum age to buy a firearm in the Sunshine State from 18 to 21. The bill also facilitates the arming of some teachers, a measure denounced by both students and teacher unions.

The National Rifle Association immediately sued to block the legislation.

The U.S. House of Representatives will vote Wednesday on the STOP School Violence Act, a bill to fund increased security measures and mental health training at schools. It does not include any gun-related measures.

On Sunday, the White House released a proposal calling for increased security in schools, improved background checks, and changes to the mental health system as it relates to the process of purchasing a firearm. But absent from the proposal is any hint of age restrictions for gun sales, something President Donald Trump touted in the days after the Florida shooting.

National retailers, including Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart, changed their store policies to prohibit gun sales to anyone younger than 21 years old. Other companies, such as Delta Airlines and car rental company Hertz, have cut ties with the NRA and ended discounts offered to its members.

According to the Marist poll, 40 percent of Americans are more likely to support a brand or company that has cut ties with the NRA. About the same number say they’re less likely to support a company that does so.

Wednesday’s walkouts will begin at 10 a.m. across time zones and will last 17 minutes, one minute for each person killed in at the Florida high school last month.

Walkout organizers created a website to help students find walkouts in their area. The site also includes facilitation and safety resources for local organizers. Some school districts have warned students against participating, threatening disciplinary action, while others have said they will allow students to express their views.

Another national student walkout is planned for April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado.

Gun violence kills an estimated 33,000 Americans – and over 17,000 children and teens are shot – every year.

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