Students, residents gather to protest gun violence

Kamiak students organized Never Again: Mukilteo this past Saturday
By Brandon Gustafson | Apr 04, 2018
Photo by: Brandon Gustafson Sen. Marko Liias, a Kamiak grad and Mukilteo native, speaking about the effects of gun violence and the change young people can cause. Liias told the younger crowd that they can register to vote as early as age 16.

Heart stirring stories and messages took center stage at Never Again: Mukilteo, a student-led protest against gun violence and school shootings this past Saturday, March 31, at Lighthouse Park.

Students from Kamiak, with the help of public donations through the website GoFundMe, organized the rally to try to put an end to gun violence and school shootings that have been increasingly rampant throughout the United States over the last few years.

Kamiak students Ketta Davis, Alissa Kiser, and Abby Selbeck helped organize the event with some other students and Mukilteo citizens, and also served as the rally’s emcees.

Guest speakers included State Senator and Kamiak grad Marko Liias, Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson, Snohomish County prosecutor Adam Cornell, Mukilteo resident Paul Kramer, and Kamiak teacher Shan Oglesby.

“I am so proud to be part of such a dedicated group of students,” Davis said at the start of the rally. “We spent a lot of time and effort to organize our school walkout, which was on March 14, and this community event. The issue of gun violence is something we all care deeply about and felt it was important to address.”

Sen. Liias was the rally’s first speaker and spoke about the impact the July 2016 shooting had on him.

“In addition to being a state senator, I’m also a really proud Kamiak grad,” Liias said. “Like most people in Mukilteo, I was really shaken by what happened in the summer of 2016. The idea that a community that was so beloved to me, that was a place that I came to find strength and peace, had become a place of violence, it felt like nothing was going to be the same again.”

Liias said he loves how the community has come together against gun violence in the wake of the shooting to show that, “this isn’t going to define us.”

“We’re going to be remembered for what we did after July 2016,” Liias said. “We’re going to be remembered for the actions we took to make Mukilteo and every community across Washington and across the country a safer, better place.

“And I think that when it comes to remembering Jacob, Jordan, and Anna, that the most powerful thing we can do to honor them and remember them is to make sure no family in Mukilteo, and no families across the country, have to go through the anguish and sorrow that we’ve seen here.”

Liias talked about how things like stricter background checks for those wanting to purchase a weapon, raising the age limit to 21 years old, and banning regular citizens from purchasing assault-type weapons are sensible things for citizens to ask for.

“The things we are asking for here today, the things we are asking for as a community, are sensible and reasonable, and it’s time for politicians that don’t get it to get out of the way,” Liias said.

Liias said the younger people being at the rally is a good start, but that isn’t enough.

“We need you to register to vote,” Liias said. “It used to be, ‘Hey when you’re 18, register to vote.’ Well guess what? This year, the Washington State Legislature changed the law so when you’re 16 and 17 you can pre-register to vote and be ready the day you turn 18.”

Alexis Gemmer, a Mukilteo resident for the last 12 years, also spoke at the rally.

Gemmer was one of the Kamiak grads at the July 2016 tragedy and was very close friends with Jordan Ebner and Jake Long. She has also been active in the Peace Park project.

“At 12:03 on July 30, 2016, I was sitting inside at the dining room table when the first shots were fired,” Gemmer said. “My attention was immediately directed outside. The gunfire gave off super bright, white flashes, but I couldn’t see the guys anymore.”

Gemmer said she ran toward the garage where she found her friend who lived in the house.

The duo knew they had to leave the house, and he opened the garage.

“He hit the garage door opener and rolled under the garage door as it was opening, and he ran to the end of the driveway and then turned and looked at me,” Gemmer said. “As I was getting up from rolling under the garage, gunfire came from directly above me. I looked out at the street and saw bullets hitting the ground around Tristan’s feet, and I saw him duck and run across the street for help.

“I went back in the garage and sat on the floor in shock. What felt like a lifetime but was probably only a minute after the shots had stopped, I went back inside (the house) and I went back down the hallway where I had just been sitting a few minutes before, and once I got there I lost all self control I thought I had.”

Gemmer recalled the moments where she discovered her friends had been shot and killed and realizing what had just taken place.

“Forty-three seconds from the first bullet to the last. Only 43 seconds is how long it took for gun violence to change my life,” she said.

Gemmer said coping with the tragedy has been tough on her, and she hasn’t always been willing to share what happened with others.

“I’ve been asked to share my story before and, until now, I had no desire, but this time I felt obligated to share,” Gemmer said. “Youth all over the U.S. are taking a stand against gun violence, and they have all been heard by me. Though I blame more than flimsy gun laws for what’s happened to us, things need to change. And any steps we can take to prevent any loss of loved ones are steps in the right direction.”

After Gemmer, Kramer spoke about grieving in the wake of the Mukilteo shooting.

Kramer’s son, Will, was shot at the 2016 shooting and survived, and ever since, Kramer has been an advocate for stricter gun laws in Washington state and the U.S.

“We all know that the problem with gun violence, mass shootings, school shootings in particular is out of control,” Kramer said. “We felt it firsthand in this community. We know the painful heartbreak of loss. We’ve grieved the loss of Anna Bui, Jake Long, and Jordan Ebner. For many of us, that grieving process continues.”

Kramer also spoke on the need for change in gun laws and policies.

“Because we’ve been affected by gun violence, we’re motivated to ask for the changes that would reduce the potential for this to happen to others,” Kramer said.

“What are we asking for? We need to ban military-style AR-15 tactical assault weapons and high capacity magazines. We need to have background checks for all gun purchases, removing all of the loopholes.

“We need to raise the minimum age to 21 for purchases of all guns and ammunition. I also think we really need to be licensing all gun owners and registering all firearms, like we do with cars.”

Kramer said he is very encouraged by the movement he’s seeing by the younger generation who are tired of seeing gun violence in the news repeatedly.

Cornell, who worked the Mukilteo shooting case as Snohomish County prosecutor, said he believes there’s hope for the future due to rallies like Never Again: Mukilteo.

“The tragedy that happened in this community on July 30, 2016, is preventable, and we can stop it from happening ever again, and we can honor Jake and Anna and Jordan and all of your sacrifices,” Cornell said.

“We can make a difference and it began in the hours after that shooting, but it continues today and it will continue. And there’s a lot of work to be done to take on the gun lobby in this country, but you all are stronger than the gun lobby and the resistance to common sense change that will keep a tragedy like this from ever happening again.”

Davis read a poem written by Kamiak senior Molly Goodrich titled, “Luck of the draw” in which Goodrich recalled being in a classroom where police entered with drawn weapons during a lockdown, hearing from her sister about the 2016 shooting, and the ACES High School student who flipped a coin to determine whether he would attack ACES or Kamiak.

Gregerson declared March 31, 2018, as Never Again: Mukilteo day, honoring those lost to gun violence at the Mukilteo shooting, as well as through suicides and other violent acts.

Cayden Tyler, a Kamiak freshman, talked about gun violence in America against people of color and the lack of attention drawn to it by media and citizens, as well as the importance of keeping guns in safe storage locations.

“While I’m lucky to live in a place as safe as Mukilteo, there aren’t many black people,” Tyler said. “There are kids like me in Seattle, Chicago, Detroit and many other low-income people of color neighborhoods who don’t outlive their parents, or instead lose their parents at a young age to gun violence.”

Tyler also recalled the Mariner student who was shot and killed because a middle school student was able to access a gun and sell it to a friend.

“Not many people outside our community know about this tragedy because David was Latino and racism is still alive and running in America and the world,” Tyler said. “I want equal coverage for every child lost. Not just the white kids.”

Kamiak junior Ellie Kunard performed songs on her guitar that she wrote about gun violence in the Mukilteo community such as her first song titled “My plead,” which is about the minds behind the anti-gun movements in America.

Lyrics include “Oh I bleed, I bleed, but nobody sees me. So I plead, I plead, please save me.”

Kamiak junior Niko Battle closed the event, thanking those for attending and encouraging students to get more involved in politics and the community.

Battle, who helped organize this event in addition to the Everett March for Our Lives, encouraged students to attend the April 16 Mukilteo School District School Board meeting.

 

Student organizers from Kamiak posing in front of the stage after Never Again: Mukilteo. The anti-gun rally took place on Saturday, March 31, at the Mukilteo beach. (Photo by: Brandon Gustafson)
Mukilteo citizen Paul Kramer talking about how the Mukilteo shooting affected the community. Kramer’s son, Will, was shot at the July 30, 2016, shooting, but made a full recovery. (Photo by: Brandon Gustafson)
Event emcees Ketta Davis, Abby Selbeck, and Alissa Kiser with Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson and her proclamation declaring March 31, 2018, Never Again: Mukilteo Day. (Photo by: Brandon Gustafson)
Kamiak teacher Shan Oglesby spoke about how citizens don’t need to have access to assault weapons. Oglesby recommended the National Guard to those who wish to use those types of weapons. (Photo by: Brandon Gustafson)
Mukilteo shooting survivor Alexis Gemmer speaking about her experience on July 30, 2016. Gemmer recalled finding her friends after the shooting and how it only took 43 seconds to drastically change her life. (Photo by: Brandon Gustafson)
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