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Kids who walked out see their generation as the one ‘getting things done’ on the gun debate

Ceilidh Kern, a sophomore, and Jaylah Ross, a junior, are two students who participated in the March 14 school walkouts, and are part of a team from more than a dozen of our Student Reporting Labs who are covering the day's events for the NewsHour. They join Judy Woodruff to discuss why they walked out, the passion driving children to participate and what they would say directly to policymakers.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    For some more perspective about this day, we’re joined by two students who participated in the walkout. They were also a part of a team from more than a dozen of our Student Reporting Labs that reported on the day across the country for the “NewsHour.” Both of them are from John F. Kennedy High School in Silver Spring, Maryland, part of the Montgomery County School System.

    Ceilidh Kern is a sophomore there. And Jaylah Ross is a junior.

    And we welcome both of you to the “NewsHour.”

    Jaylah, let me start with you. Why did you want to be part of this today?

  • Jaylah Ross:

    So, I was there in support of the victims of the Florida shooting and also in support of victims of other mass shootings.

    And I would also just — you know, I was there to push for stricter gun laws.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And what about you, Ceilidh? What would you say was the reason you came?

  • Ceilidh Kern:

    I came to, you know, see for myself, because students becoming activists is not something that happens all the time.

    But, in addition to that, I wanted to support the victims of mass shootings, especially the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

    And I also wanted to, you know, help apply pressure to our politicians to tell them, hey, this is something that really matters to me and to all these other people, and we would like you to do something about it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Jaylah, you mentioned gun laws. If you could talk to the politicians directly, what would you say to them that you want?

  • Jaylah Ross:

    I would say ban assault rifles.

    I feel like there’s no reason that we need that in, like, an everyday life type of situation. And I think that, you know, it would — we would be a lot safer if we did something about that. And also, pushing for background checks and things like that, it’s really little things that can, you know, help us in the long run.

    And so I think that that’s definitely a start.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Ceilidh, what about you in terms of changing gun laws or other laws? What would you like to see?

  • Ceilidh Kern:

    Universal background checks to find out exactly who’s buying these guns and what their background is.

    Also to ban bump stocks, which can be used to automate semiautomatic weapons. And just overall banning automatic weapons, because military-style rifles in general are not really needed in civilian life. And there’s no need for them.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Jaylah, did you — some people are remarking that it’s it’s really something that the younger generation has to be the one to carry this message.

    How do you feel about that? Do you feel — we heard someone in the report just now say they feel the older generation has failed them. Is that how you feel?

  • Jaylah Ross:

    In some ways, yes.

    I feel like, nowadays you, see the voice of the youth very powerful and very strong. And I think that it is us that are really getting things done nowadays. I mean, you see us, our marches, and we spread word through social media.

    And I feel like, nowadays, it’s really — people have to count on the youth to take care of things. And so, yes, I feel like, in some ways, yes, they have.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Ceilidh, others have pointed out that it’s well and good to have these marches, to have these walkouts, but unless things change at the ballot box, laws won’t change. How committed do you think and you some of your friends are to see this through?

  • Ceilidh Kern:

    For me personally, I am very excited to turn 18 to be able to vote and to be able to express my opinions at the ballot box. And I know that I’m not the only one.

    A lot of my peers who showed up today are very energized, because they realize a lot of these politicians aren’t representing their views, and so they really want to personally make sure there are new politicians who will.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    How much of this do you think, Jaylah, is fear that a shooting, God forbid, could happen someplace near you, in Montgomery County, even at your school?

  • Jaylah Ross:

    That’s a huge part of it, I feel. I feel like no one wants to have to go through something like this, something as dramatic as that, and have to hide under desks and things like that.

    And I feel like fear does play a big role. It’s a motivation, really, for us to get things done. And I think that, you know, it’s horrible what’s happening, and so I do think that fear does play a huge role.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Ceilidh, what do you want people to know who are looking at all of you who are saying, well, they took time off from school, was it really worth it? What would you say?

  • Ceilidh Kern:

    Doing this, staying on campus or something, that’s not going to help us, it’s not going to help us put pressure on politicians.

    But getting the attention of both the media and adults in general really helps us apply pressure to them and get our message out better.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we thank you both for coming in to talk to us today.

    Thank you, Ceilidh Kern and Jaylah Ross. We appreciate it.

  • Jaylah Ross:

    Thank you.

  • Ceilidh Kern:

    Thank you for having us.

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