SALT LAKE CITY — Dozens of high school students gathered on the steps of the Utah Capitol Friday afternoon, saying several of their counterparts at a Texas school should be preparing for prom, graduation and summer break, but instead were lost to gunfire in their classroom.
"It just really hurts me that today, 10 people woke up and they went to school, to their job, to finish another Friday, and they didn't get to go home. And there's some kids that don't get the chance to go to prom or to graduate," said Mindy Braga, a rising senior at Copper Hills High School in West Jordan.
The students' tones were tense as they vented their growing frustration and feelings of vulnerability. They said they have felt largely ignored by their elected leaders in the two months since they rallied at the Capitol with thousands of others, calling for tighter gun restrictions following the deaths of 17 students and school employees in the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
"We've come to these steps so many times, and our legislators are not listening to us. Just because we're 16, 17 and 18 does not mean that we cannot enact change in this country," said Daud Mumin, a junior at Copper Hills.
Several in the group said they don't believe guns should be banned altogether but want Congress to pass further restrictions on who can legally buy firearms and when.
Many said their fear that a similar tragedy will occur in Utah was stoked Thursday, when police say a West High School student carried an unloaded gun into the school in his waistband, with ammunition in his pocket. The ninth-grade boy was arrested; no injuries were reported.
The rally was organized by the Salt Lake City chapter of the national March For Our Lives group. Others who attended came from Salt Lake City's East and West high schools, as well as Excelsior Academy in Erda.
Even though shootings in schools have become a regular occurrence, they said, the deadly violence shouldn't be accepted as normal.
To illustrate that point, about 50 students lay motionless with their eyes closed for a "die-in" demonstration, marking the lives of victims of the school shootings that have taken place in 2018.
Some shed tears, and others held posters saying "Students demand gun reform" and "ENOUGH!" with a crossed-out assault rifle.
Other teens and adults looked on, including some with posters that depicted a young woman's head draped over an open book with a bullet hole in her forehead.
Abena Bakenra, a West High senior, said she had just finished her last exam Friday and was looking forward to her school's prom Saturday when she heard what happened at the Santa Fe, Texas, school.
"I'm so disheartened," she said, that another school shooting had taken place.73 comments on this story
Haley Brewster, a Copper Hills student who plans to teach high school social studies, agreed.
"I'm tired of waking up and going to school and thinking it's going to be my last day of school," she said.
Organizers of the event encouraged those in attendance to vote in November's midterm elections if they are old enough, and to keep calling for legislative action on social media.
They urged students to share their grief with their peers, saying the weight of the shootings was a heavy burden for the teens already navigating difficult times in their lives.