The Slatest

Dozens of Wisconsin High-Schoolers Are Marching 50 Miles to Paul Ryan’s Hometown to Demand Gun Control

Signs at the March for Our Lives rally in Las Vegas.
Signs at the March for Our Lives rally in Las Vegas on Saturday. Students leading the 50 Miles More march organized to maintain the momentum of the 800 March for Our Lives events organized around the country. Ethan Miller/Getty Images

On Saturday, teenagers across the country came out in force to demand gun control to protect them from gun violence. Led by the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, high-schoolers bearing angry signs warning legislators of their impending right to vote rejected the claims from the right that they were not old enough to have their own informed opinions or that they were being used by adult activists.

The next day, one group of Wisconsin high-schoolers gave further proof of the teens’ dedication to the cause with a planned 50-mile spring break march to the hometown of Paul Ryan.

More than 40 students from across the state set off on what is planned to be a four-day march from Madison to Janesville, according to their website. “It is directed at Paul Ryan for his lead role in blocking and burying any chance of gun reform again and again,” the group says on its website. “We are ready to keep the pressure on our nation’s top leaders until gun reform is a priority for Republicans and Democrats.”

The website cites the 54-mile civil rights march from Montgomery to Selma, Alabama, in 1965 as their inspiration. Students at Shorewood High School near Milwaukee organized the event, according to the Washington Post. They are calling for a ban on military-style assault weapons and bump stocks, a four-day waiting period for firearm purchases, universal background checks, and an increase in the age to buy a gun from 18 to 21.

According to the Post, the chanting, sign-holding group has grown since it started, and teenagers and other young people reached out to the group on social media to find out how to join. On Sunday, they walked 17 miles in near-freezing weather, posting about a different victim of gun violence at each mile. They were accompanied by parents and occasionally law enforcement, according to the Post. On Sunday night, they slept on a high school gym floor.

Ryan has not spoken publicly about the topic since the demonstrations, but in February, about a week after the Parkland shooting, he told reporters that “we shouldn’t be banning guns for law-abiding citizens” and that Congress should instead ensure that “people who should not get guns don’t get them.” He called the idea to arm teachers—a widely unpopular one among Sunday’s demonstrators—a good one that should remain a matter of local legislation, and he praised a bill that would reinforce background checks but loosen laws around concealed-carry permits.

Elements of that bill were ultimately wrapped into Congress’ giant spending bill, which passed Wednesday. The bipartisan Fix NICS bill—a meager step compared with the broad national debate demonstrators were calling for, but a step all the same—incentivizes background check reporting and provides additional funds for school safety. In a section that pleased Democrats, the bill lifted restrictions placed on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention blocking the agency from conducting research on gun violence. The NRA-favored measure that would have allowed for concealed-carry reciprocity was booted from the package.

The Wisconsin students, for their part, are demanding more from their representatives. “We commit to taking the fight to Congress, the White House, state legislatures, and the ballot box,” the group says on its website. “We will demand reform. And if our leaders fail to deliver, there will be a reckoning on Election Day all across the country.”