Students host vigil at Idaho State Capitol for Uvalde victims
Exactly one week after a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas left 21 people dead, over 100 Idaho students, parents, and advocates gathered on Tuesday evening to host a vigil in honor of the victims.
The organizers gave heartfelt memorial speeches, sang songs, told stories of the victims’ lives, and read each of the victims’ names aloud. Silence followed each name.
The event was hosted and organized by teenage students who are part of the March For Our Lives movement, which formed after the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Amaia Clayton, a 17-year-old senior at Renaissance High School and a director for the movement’s Idaho chapter, spoke to Boise State Public Radio about her reaction to the support.
“I’m grateful that our community has shown up,” Clayton said. “We’re hopeful that this outpouring of community support symbolizes our community coming together and fighting for this cause.”
Clayton worked alongside four other directors, who also appeared at the vigil. Among those was Kate Stevens, 18, who sobbed as she spoke into the microphone and gave her speech.
“We are mourning that they will not be able to grow up and graduate from high school like I did last week,” Stevens said. “That they will never be able to experience so many things that we were lucky enough to.”
Stevens is the outgoing chapter lead of March For Our Lives Idaho and a recent graduate of Boise High School. Clayton will take over her position next year, along with a co-director.
Myrie Murphy, 18, and Becky Matthews, 16, also helped plan the event. They handed out electric candles for attendees to light during the vigil and gave out sidewalk chalk following the ceremony.
Murphy is the chapter’s Artistic Outreach Director. She suggested the idea of using chalk to let mourners write messages of hope and demands for action in front of the Capitol.
“It’s what we do, it’s what we feel passionate about,” Murphy said.
Matthews was glad to see the support from community members and fellow gun control advocacy groups, like Moms Demand Action. Although Matthews had never experienced or been affected by a mass shooting, she said that’s no reason to not get involved.
Moms Demand Action worked closely with the teenage directors to spread the word about this event. Dressed in identical red shirts, they comforted supporters and survivors of previous mass shootings while at the vigil.
One of those survivors was Tara Marie, who lived through the 2017 shooting in Las Vegas. That shooting killed 58 people and injured over 600.
“I feel like we’re talking about constitutional rights, but what constitutional right is more important than the right to be alive?” Marie said. “If we don’t have that, then none of the other ones matter.”
After two mass shootings in ten days, Marie said that many of the emotions she experienced following the Las Vegas massacre resurfaced in a dangerous way. Over four years later and after doing “everything [she] can think of” to recover from the tragedy, the emotions turned too strong for her to handle when news of Uvalde broke.
Marie said that she was involuntarily admitted to a psychiatric hold over Memorial Day weekend, after making a threat to end her own life.
When asked about what suggestions she had for solving this crisis, Marie suggested raising the age limit to buy a gun, enforcing red flag laws and requiring background checks for high-powered weapons. She also acknowledged the importance of addressing mental health needs, speaking from her own experience.
“I just got out of a mental health situation, and it’s not good,” Marie said. “It’s really, really, really not good.”
Thanks to the comfort she experienced at the vigil, Marie plans to continue advocating for gun control with Moms Demand Action and March For Our Lives. She hopes that they will use her story to build on the movement that’s already been created.
Both groups have been working closely with Idaho lawmakers to push for gun control bills, with varying levels of success. Much of the legislation proposed by March For Our Lives - even after private meetings with legislators - has not received a hearing, according toStevens.
Members of Moms Demand Action spoke with state senators and representatives last month in support of sensible gun laws. One of those speakers was Bill Brudenell, who attended Tuesday’s vigil with his wife, Ingrid.
The couple has been involved in Moms Demand Action for about four years. They also volunteer with the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights in Boise.
“We need some new laws that make sense,” Bill Brudenell said. “Maybe somebody should be 21 years old before they buy a military-type weapon.”
Ingrid Brudenell added that she would support a buyback program, similar to what was recently introduced in Canada. Her husband also cited the success of Australia’s buyback program, implemented after a mass shooting killed 35 people in 1996.
Both agreed that now is the time to act, in hopes that Boise would not experience a similar shooting.
Speaking to the crowd as candles lit up and flowers were laid on the memorial, Stevens reflected on the work of March For Our Lives in the immediate aftermath of Uvalde and other shootings across the country.
“If we do not start mourning the loss of our fellow citizens around the nation, we will keep letting this happen,” Stevens said. “We are not okay with the causal manner that this keeps happening, time and time again.”