Columbine students hold voter registration drive ahead of National School Walkout

The number of 16- and 17-year-olds who have pre-registered to vote in Colorado has increased 17 percent.

Sam Craig, a Chatfield High School student and co-director of Vote For Our Lives, holds up a sign reading $3.94 during a rally and vigil at Columbine High School on April 19, 2018 in Littleton, Colorado. (Credit: Theo Stroomer/Getty Images)
Sam Craig, a Chatfield High School student and co-director of Vote For Our Lives, holds up a sign reading $3.94 during a rally and vigil at Columbine High School on April 19, 2018 in Littleton, Colorado. (Credit: Theo Stroomer/Getty Images)

As students across the country prepared to commemorate the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting by participating in the second nationwide school walkout Friday, Columbine students opted for a different protest tactic.

Students in Littleton, Colorado on Thursday held a voter registration rally before their school closed on Friday, as it does every year, in memory of the lives lost. Speakers included former students who survived the Columbine shooting, as well as survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which resulted in the deaths of 17 people on February 14.

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The Vote for Our Lives event will be followed by similar events in various cities nationwide, including a registration drive in Parkland before the 2018 elections, according to the Denver Post.

Gini Ziegler of Littleton signs up for information before a rally and vigil at Columbine High School on April 19, 2018 in Littleton, Colorado. (Credit: Theo Stroomer/Getty Images)
Gini Ziegler of Littleton signs up for information before a rally and vigil at Columbine High School on April 19, 2018 in Littleton, Colorado. (Credit: Theo Stroomer/Getty Images)

“This movement is the next step in a series of pressure points on politicians to take action,” Vote for Our Lives organizers said in a statement to the Post. “We as Americans will no longer be silenced by politicians who take money from special interest groups and ignore the voices of their constituents.”

The movement appears to be working. As the Denver Post reported, by the end of March 2018, the number of 16- and 17-year-olds who pre-registered to vote increased 17 percent compared to the previous year.

Students who participated in last month’s March for Our Lives event in Washington, D.C. also incorporated voter registration drives in their protests. HeadCount, a nonpartisan organization that encourages civic engagement and has worked with Parkland shooting survivors to organize drives, told CNN in March that their volunteers registered almost 5,000 new voters at 30 protests throughout the country. That estimate doesn’t account for individuals who may have registered online.

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On Friday morning, students nationwide took part in 19 minutes of silence, one for every year since the Columbine shooting in 1999.

Though the Columbine school shooting, which left 12 students and one teacher dead, was not the first mass shooting in the United States, it marked the beginning of the increased frequency of school shootings throughout the country. According to an analysis by The Washington Post, since Columbine, there has been an average of 10 school shootings per year, affecting nearly 190,000 students. Those who grew up in the early 2000s often refer to themselves as the “Columbine generation,” having only known a world in which school shootings are commonplace.

February’s Parkland shooting also marked a shift in the national consciousness with regard to school violence, as more and more survivors spoke out in favor of gun control. Friday’s walk out is the latest of many actions organized by survivors to raise awareness. In mid-March, one month after the shooting, students at an estimated 2,500 schools participated in a walk out. Later that month, the March for Our Lives event drew approximately 800,000 people to the nation’s capital.