COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKBN) – Around 225 high school students from across the state gathered at the Ohio Statehouse Wednesday to lobby lawmakers on gun legislation.
Emily Marmer is one of several students who came together to organize the event after learning that her classmate and friend Matthew Youkilis was a cousin to one of the victims at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last month.
“We want our legislators to know that we as teenagers care about these issues. We are passionate enough to show up here at the Statehouse today and make our point,” said Marmer, a senior at Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati.
At first, Youkilis thought the event would be just him and a couple of other students. That changed when a wave of interest poured in. When asked what the students thought about accusations they are just politicizing the tragedy in Florida Youkilis said, “We want to stand up and make this an issue so that this doesn’t happen to another family or another individual again.”
The large group planned to arrive at the Statehouse, lobby some lawmakers and attend a session of the Ohio Senate. Unfortunately, they were unable to attend session because it was canceled the day before. The students took this as an affront and some believe the cancellation was connected to their efforts.
According to the Office of the President of the Senate, session was canceled because Senate President Larry Obhof has been ill since the weekend.
In the past, Senate Session has been held without the Senate president present and the students aren’t buying that excuse.
“As teenagers, maybe people don’t take us as seriously, but we are future voters in Ohio. All of these people are going to be 18 very, very, soon,” Marmer said.
Meanwhile, the students did get to meet with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and from both chambers.
Republican Senators Hottinger, Coley, Uecker, and Dolan entertained the students and discussed their concerns, while Senators Kunze, LaRose, and Jordan were unable to keep their meetings due to scheduling conflicts. In those instances, the students met with the Senator’s legislative aid instead.
State Senator Cecil Thomas and State Representative Janine Boyd were among the several Democrats to also meet with students.
According to Youkilis, the lobbying was meant to start a conversation, regardless of party affiliation.
“The state of Florida just passed legislation that is not perfect by any means but is a great move in the right direction,” Youkilis said. “I don’t see why Ohio can’t follow suit in a way that is a preemptive strike against potential gun violence in our state.”