Students Walk Out To Support Gun Rights
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Students around the country walked out of their classrooms this past week over the issue of guns and one, notably, in support of gun rights. The event Stand for the Second, as in the Second Amendment, was started by high school student Will Riley. Riley is a senior at Carlsbad High School in Carlsbad, N.M., and he joins us from his home there. Welcome to the program.
WILL RILEY: Yeah. Thank you for having me on.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So what motivated you to organize this event?
RILEY: Well, I think, really, the main thing that, you know, spurred me to action here was that, you know, it's not seeing that there are students that are on the other side of this issue. It's just the narrative that I was seeing that all students were on the other side of this issue. And so I kind of wanted to dispel the myth that gun control is something that's being done for the kids. When I look at myself, and I look at my peers, it's not for a lot of us.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And what is your view, if I may ask? Do you see that there needs to be compromises made on gun control to have safer schools?
RILEY: I would say that there are definitely compromises to be made regarding background checks, mental health reform, things like that. But as far as depriving our fellow citizens of natural rights, I would say that there is no compromise there.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What is your relationship with guns? I mean, do you own one? Do you come from a family that has guns?
RILEY: My father owns guns. However, I'm not a hunter. I'm not into, you know, going into the range or something like that. For me, this is all about the rights. This isn't about me preserving a hobby or about preserving my own property. I think that I'm someone who is a strong believer in the Constitution and the founding principles of our country. And that's why I am so passionate about this issue.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Your event happened this past Wednesday, and hundreds of schools participated. But we've seen your fellow students participating in much bigger protests in favor of gun control, the March for Our Lives rally, for instance, and others. Do you feel out of step with your peers?
RILEY: I would say that one thing to look at - if you look at the amount of support from national organizations that the other side got on this issue, I think - and then you look at ours, where we have mostly tech infrastructure help from the Tea Party Patriots. If you look at all the support that the other side got and all of the coverage that they got, I think it's no surprise that not as many people were able to participate because, obviously, you can't participate if you don't know.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: The NRA isn't supporting you, for example?
RILEY: At the very end, they did give me a platform on NRATV. I spoke to someone at the NRA who helped put me in touch with a couple reporters. And I believe they retweeted us once. But other than that, the NRA has not been supporting this initiative. We are also in no sense a Tea Party Patriots initiative. It's myself and a few of my friends in my living room making calls, sending tweets, things like that. This is really as grass roots as it gets.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Let me ask you this. Throwing yourself into this debate - it is very visibly playing out on social media. What has been the reaction to your stance? And have you had any conversations with, for example, the kids at Parkland?
RILEY: It's definitely mixed. I think, you know, a lot of people are very happy that they do have this platform to make their voices heard. But on the other hand, there are a lot of people who are upset. You know, some people are going to give me, you know, logical arguments that - and, you know, we can go back and forth. And I think that that's good. As far as the anti-gun Parkland students, I have not spoken to any of them.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's high school senior Will Riley, founder of Stand for the Second. Thank you very much.
RILEY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.