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Editorial: Student protests bringing about change

Young people have taken aim. They are fired up. And who can blame them? Their peers are dying.

At schools all around the country — including those here at home — thousands upon thousands of students walked out on March 14 in an impressive display of unity and resolve. The next massive demonstration is Saturday, March 24, in Washington, D.C. Another is set for April 20, the anniversary of the school shooting in Columbine, Colo.

They said they are committed to doing what adults have failed to do: Take real steps to help prevent mass shootings, especially in our schools.

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The National School Walkout, which is the first of three major protests planned to clamor for action on gun violence, is believed to represent the largest national, student-waged protest movement since the protests against the Vietnam War in the late-1960s.

Fifty years ago, the protesters were mostly college students. In 2018, we're talking high school students. That's impressive.

They ushered in the new protest era after the Feb. 14, 2018, slaughter of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. The survivors there vowed that this time tragedy will beget results. The students hit early and hard enough that Florida quickly passed its first new gun restrictions in more than two decades. Anyone buying a gun there must be at least 21 years old, wait three days between purchase and acquisition, and allow police to seize a gun from someone deemed dangerous.

Other states including Minnesota and Wisconsin now are debating new gun laws. Businesses from coast to coast are distancing themselves from the blocker of past measures — the National Rifle Association.

These early successes surely helped convince students here to join the walkout. Chief among their demands is safe schools, and they want universal background checks and a ban on assault-style weapons to help make that happen.

Some contend that the NRA has squelched debate because its members are highly engaged and organized, and therefore the powerful lobby will prevail again. Students, however, appear highly engaged and organized as well. They have youth on their side and, like their grandparents in the 1960s, could dramatically change the U.S. political landscape. It's a matter of time and willpower.