In the wake of student-organized walkouts to protest gun violence, a countermovement, “walk up,” has arisen in response. The “walk up” message to students is don’t walk out – instead, walk up to those who are marginalized in the hope of connecting with the “next shooter.”

It’s hard to disagree that students should be good human beings by showing compassion for outsiders. Improvements in this aspect of human behavior should be made and would undoubtedly improve many aspects of society – likely including that of gun violence in schools.

However, “walk up” misses the point of student protests, which is that there are too many guns in our society and that adults have failed miserably at addressing this problem.

Compared to the rest of the world, one doesn’t find that our country has a statistically larger proportion of teens who lack compassion. What student protesters are saying is that a major factor in what makes the U.S. a violent place is that we have more guns per person than any other country in the world and more mass shooters per person than any other country in the world (except for Yemen).

The message that protests are ineffective also ignores the lessons of the civil rights movement, which was dramatically changed when white, suburban Americans turned on the nightly news to see teenagers skipping school, beaten at lunch counters, attacked by police dogs or knocked on their backs by police water cannons. These student protests helped to bring changes to the laws and attitudes that held together the cruelty of segregation.

Just a few days ago, Florida legislators went against the National Rifle Association and voted for significant changes in access to firearms. The protesting by young people (who can’t vote) undoubtedly played a significant role in bringing about political change where adults had long failed.

Mark Ashe