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High School Students Stage 'Die-In' At Arizona Capitol, Call For Gun Reform

Friday marked the 19th anniversary of the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado. High school students staged walkouts across the country to call for gun reform. In Arizona, students gathered after school at the Capitol to stage a “die-in” inside the House and Senate buildings.

Tiyae Brown is a junior at Phoenix’s Central High School who attended the demonstration.

"Since we’re younger, people don’t look at us as if we have a voice,” Brown said. “So we’re here to show them that we have our own opinions. We’re mature enough to make a statement about what we feel is wrong.”

Students lay down on the floor of the House and Senate buildings to represent the lives lost in school shootings. They periodically spoke up about why they were lying there, making statements like, “I’m dying so my school never becomes a war zone” and, “I’m dying because my government has let me die.”

Alfonso Calderon, one of the survivors of the Feb. 14 mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, was one of the speakers at the Arizona event. He encouraged Valley students to engage with people on both sides of the gun-control debate.

“If we want to move forward, we need to have discussions, not debates,” Calderon said. “We need to have an open dialogue between people who agree and disagree with gun control. We need to push this conversation forward, and that’s not going to happen if we just preach to the choir.”

Counterprotesters from the conservative Patriot Movement Arizona group came to express their views. They came with megaphones shouting things like, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”

Calderon called for students to use logic instead of violence to achieve their goals.

“Personal attacks are going to be coming your way, I promise you,” Calderon said. “But, the possibility of changing someone’s mind through rational discussion, instead of fighting, instead of screaming, instead of intimidating people — that’s the right thing to do.”

Jordan Harb is a junior at Mesa’s Mountain View High School and was one of the lead organizers for March For Our Lives in Phoenix a few weeks ago. He spoke to students before they entered the Senate and House buildings for the die-in.

“There have been so many kids here all day,” Harb said. “There were like 600 of them earlier. We have been occupying this all day because the government continues to ignore us.”

Harb said his father immigrated to the U.S. to escape violence.

“[My father] grew up in a world where gunshots lulled him to sleep,” Harb said. “We fled to this country for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. So tell me why I have these same fears sitting in the classrooms of American suburbia.”

Senior field correspondent Bridget Dowd has a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.