SALT LAKE CITY — With their safety in question in the wake of the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, high school students across the country are attempting to take matters into their own hands.
"This is something that we've gone to school with our entire lives," said Elizabeth Love, a senior at West High School and one of the organizers of a student rally.
"We're gonna fix it," she said.
Students from local schools met on Monday to discuss March for Our Lives in Salt Lake City, during which students and supporters will rally on Capitol Hill.
The event is just one of many student-organized rallies around the U.S. that are planned for March 24.
Isaac Reese, a student at Brighton High School, organized the event. He says he was inspired when he saw that students in Florida were already taking action.
"I figured the best way was to find student activists from around Salt Lake City," he said.
He added that in addition to Brighton and West, students from Judge Memorial and Skyline high schools are also involved in the nonpartisan event.
Love says 15 people were part of the first planning meeting. However, since news of the march broke, students in each of her classes have asked how they can join in. She has also received messages over social media from others who want to participate, she said.
"I think we're going to surprise people by how engaged we are," she said of her generation.
For Love, who plans to study political science and history at Columbia University, this movement has been a long time in the making.
"This is something we've lived with all the way through school, and we've been upset about all the way through school," she said, sitting in a classroom at West High School.
She was in middle school when the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary happened in 2012, and she says it made her afraid to go back to school.
"That feeling is heightened after school shootings, but it's always there. I think there is this sense of insecurity for kids at school because of school shootings," she said.
When news of the Florida shooting broke, Love says she was in history class, and "I didn't even really flinch because this is something that happens so often that I was like: 'Oh well, another horrible tragedy.' And so I was sad about it, but I didn't think it was really gonna be any different than any of the ones that happened last month, last year," she said.
"You become desensitized to it," she said.
She noted frustration because when another shooting happens, "conversation bubbles up for a while, but a week later, we all forget about it."
"I think everybody's really frustrated about that," Love said.
When she got online, she saw "kids speaking out on Twitter" and realized "kids were the ultimate authority on that because they were there … and they were gaining so much traction."
She noticed: "These kids are fighting back."
Love's generation has the platform of social media, which she calls "one of the most important ingredients."
Love says she believes what makes this time different is the fact that "kids have phones wherever they are" and "our coverage of school shootings isn't gonna be cinematized anymore," she said.
Through the march, students hope to prove that "even though we're outraged, we're outraged because of the inaction," she said.
Members of her own family are gun owners, Love said, and she understands both sides of the gun debate.
"Nobody wants to get rid of anybody's guns, we just want guns to be treated like anything else," she said.
The group of Salt Lake City students has yet to meet to determine specific legislation that they want to ask for during the march, Love said.
"We don't have all the answers, but we want people to start looking at them," she added.
However, the students do want lawmakers to consider repealing the Dickey Amendment, which blocks federal funding of gun violence research, Love said. The students will later announce more specific goals of their march.
"This is the outburst of it, and it's gonna continue, because we can't forget about it. It's gonna be at the top of our minds for a long time until something's fixed," she said.
"We don't want our kids to be afraid when they go to school," she added.
As of Tuesday evening, nearly 500 students and supporters had RSVP'd to attend the rally on the event's Facebook page.60 comments on this story
Reese says he expected the event to "catch fire quickly," because it is an issue that affects so many people, but he didn't expect it to catch as quickly as it did.
“We are very well aware of the concern of many students regarding the incident that happened last week in Florida, and we want to plan appropriately for any student interest in participating in any of the planned marches and protests," said Jeff Haney, spokesman for Canyon School District.
He added that Canyon School District is communicating with school districts of other students involved.