New Hampshire students protest guns

CONCORD – With yet another academic year right around the corner, some New Hampshire students remain concerned about the possibility of gun violence in their schools.

A small, but vocal group of teenagers from across the state joined forces in the lobby of the Legislative Office Building in Concord on Wednesday to rally for gun-free school zones. Calling their event “Back to Action,” they urged New Hampshire officials to pass legislation to specifically prohibit guns in schools.

“Unless they have their hands in the pockets of the (National Rifle Association) or another special interest organization, they will agree. Across the nation, elected officials of both parties are stepping up to support this legislation, and New Hampshire politicians can do the same,” Exeter High School senior Ava Liponis said.

“There is no political affiliation to saving lives,” Liponis added.

Liponis and several other young women took to a podium to present their opinions, and share with others the changes they would like to see. The event marked the six-month anniversary of the tragedy that took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, during which 17 students lost their lives in a school shooting.

“We will continue to push to make change to ensure that schools are safe places to not only learn, but to exist,” Laila Ruffin, a recent Concord High School graduate said.

Ruffin will be attending Pomona College in California this fall. During her time as a high school student, she organized student walkouts and helped to organize a “March For Our Lives” event with other local students.

Aside from that, she has also been recognized by New Hampshire legislators for her work to prevent gun violence.

Ruffin said shortly after the Parkland shooting, she began hearing talks about national walkouts, so she and a group of students got together with some teachers and decided to do something.

“It’s so easy to live inside this bubble of security and naivety and just exist there and not have to live it,” Ruffin said. “I don’t want to see occurrences like this happen again and again, even though it is inevitable, but I just want to make sure that people know the risks. Overall, gun-free school zones is what’s on my mind at the moment.”

According to those at the rally, a memo from the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office states people can carry firearms into elementary and high schools. This means, event organizers said, school officials or police officers can only take action once an individual actually makes a threat or starts shooting.

Olivia Mundahl will be a Emma Willard School in New York this fall, while Katie Earle will be a freshman at Concord High School.

“We need gun-free school zones. Do everything in your power to ensure New Hampshire students won’t be living free and dying,” Mundahl said in her speech.

“This is going to take time, and it’s definitely not easy, but we have a lot of support,” Ruffin added. “So, regardless of what’s going on now, and what happened in the past, we’re just looking forward to ensuring that the future is safer for students entering school.”

Adam Urquhart can be reached at 594-1206 or aurquhart@nashuatelegraph.com.