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Medical and Charles River Campus Groups Join in National School Walkout Yesterday

Part of countrywide school demonstrations after last month’s Florida shootings

Students and staff on both BU campuses joined the National School Walkout yesterday to protest gun violence, four weeks to the day after a gunman murdered 17 people at a Florida high school.

At least 300 people on the Medical Campus, some braced against freezing temperatures with just their white lab coats, crowded together off Talbot Green. Planned by students at the Schools of Medicine and Public Health, the rally, like those at more than 2,500 middle and high schools and some universities across the country, lasted 17 minutes, one for each of the students and teachers killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

On the Charles River Campus, the walkout drew several dozen people to gather on Marsh Plaza.

“A national movement has started,” declared Medical Campus keynote speaker Eileen Costello, a MED clinical professor of pediatrics and chief of ambulatory pediatrics at Boston Medical Center, MED’s affiliated hospital. “I speak for many pediatricians at Boston Medical Center and across the nation who are saying: Stop this now.

“How can members of Congress listen more to the NRA than to the voices of our children?” she asked. The National Rifle Association (NRA) opposes most suggestions for tightening gun safety laws. “We must stand with these students, our children, and our patients and call for laws that will keep automatic weapons of mass destruction out of civilian hands.”

“We call upon our national, state, and local leaders to take swift and decisive action,” Rebecca Webb (MED’20), one of the rally’s organizers, told the crowd.

Before the rally, BU Today spoke to several people attending the walkout. Co-organizer Aldina Mesic (SPH’18), a research study assistant at SPH, said that she was optimistic that the Florida tragedy, unlike previous mass shootings, would spur action against gun violence.

Students on Marsh Plaza participating in the national walkout protesting gun violence.

Students on Marsh Plaza were among demonstrators at more than 2,500 schools seeking tighter gun safety laws. Photo by Cydney Scott

She cited Florida’s just-passed gun reforms, which include raising the allowable age for gun purchases to 21, something the NRA opposes, as well as an NRA-backed provision to arm school personnel.

“There’s clearly momentum around the country to address it in a number of ways,” Mesic said. “I do think that something will change and something will come of this.”

Co-organizer Anita Knopov (MED’19) voiced similar optimism. “The national dialogue has changed since the Parkland shooting,” she said. “We’ve seen stores distancing themselves from the NRA” by discontinuing discounts and other perks they’d offered to NRA members.

“And we’ve seen individual companies making new rules about the age of…buying a gun,” Mesic added. Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart have raised the minimum age for gun purchases to 21 since the Florida shooting.

“We just want to move it from just talking about thoughts and prayers…and expecting our national policymakers to actually do something to address the gun violence in this country,” she said.

Nicole Jeter (SPH’19) took time off from her maternal and child health class to attend the rally because “I have cousins and family that are in elementary schools, and I’ve seen the effect that it [news of violence] has on those children.” The large national walkout, she said, would have the “impact of everyone coming together to voice their opinions and to show the importance of working together.”

“Our MED faculty and students who rotate through our very busy emergency room at BMC see the toll that guns take every day in Boston,” said Karen Antman, dean of MED and provost of the Medical Campus.

“Students have taken the lead on this issue, starting with Florida, and now across the United States. I see no more effective group out there right now. Our generation has not succeeded. Maybe they can.”

Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old alleged Stoneman Douglas High School gunman, is facing the death penalty if convicted. His lawyers, who have offered a guilty plea in exchange for a life prison sentence, are expected to raise mental health issues to try to save his life. Cruz was a former student at the school where he went on a rampage on Valentine’s Day.

Rich Barlow, Senior Writer, BU Today, Bostonia, Boston University
Rich Barlow

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

11 Comments on Medical and Charles River Campus Groups Join in National School Walkout Yesterday

  • Missy on 03.15.2018 at 7:58 am

    These arguments blaming guns and crying for gun control are illogical.

    Most of the gun violence in this country is directly tied to gang violence and mental illness

    Legalize illicit drugs and do a better job of treating not just drugging up people with mental illness and the problem with illegal missuse of guns will solve itself without infringing upon the only right that puts the teeth into the bill of rights for all Americans.

    We once had children not only bringing their guns to school but using them to compete in target practice without issue but this was before we served them mind altering drugs with their breakfast!

    The mechanisms of action of guns have not changed much in the past 50 years but the way we treat mental illness has. Instead of institutionalizing the mentally ill we set them loose on the streets and trust them to remain compliant with their drug dosing schedules and then feign shock when they are noncompliant.

    Instead of infringing on the rights of those who are not mentally ill why not infringe on the rights of those who are while ensure they get timely and effective treatment so they can have their rights restored as soon as possible?

    You want common sense solutions look no further than what I have written here.

    • Bye Felicia on 03.15.2018 at 8:56 am

      There is only so much one can do for people with mental illness. Usually the problems stem from their life circumstances ( how they were raised, the people who influence them on a daily basis, environmental stressors etc.)

      I do agree more needs to be done to help those with mental illnesses in this country. However, parents, families and the community are among the most important influences in helping those with mental illness coup with their daily struggles.

      By controlling guns, we would in fact be helping mental health patients! Whether it takes more time, more test, or more screening measures to obtain a gun, the benefits largely out weigh the cost of having guns end up in the wrong hands.

    • N on 03.15.2018 at 9:44 am

      Whatever your beliefs, the only thing that has been proven to signifigantly reduce gun violence is reducing the availability of guns.

      Yes, we live in a country that doesn’t provide adequate medical coverage for the mentally ill and that needs to be fixed, but not all shooters are mentally ill. A better predictor is whether they have a history of violence (ex/ domestic abuse) and a more immediate deterrent is not allowing violent people to own guns.

      Just my two cents.

      • Jose Artigas on 03.16.2018 at 5:52 pm

        Dear N, your 2 cents are priceless. Thank you.

  • Tommy on 03.15.2018 at 8:44 am

    A lot of the conversation about guns is missing the point. It’s great that students are drawing attention to gun violence but they should be protesting the lack of available mental health in this country. We used to have many facilities to evaluate mental illness. But politicians thought it would be cheaper to just dump the mentally ill on the streets and in our prisons. This is not a gun control issue it’s an issue involving a lack of mental health resources. The police were called multiple times, the FBI was called, cruzes classmates were reaching out to everyone, the school knew he was a threat and expelled him but still this happened not because of a weapon but because a sick individual couldn’t be sent off somewhere like an asylum. The problem with using prisons to house the mentally ill is that they first have to commit a crime. Every state should have at least one mental health facility to remove violent mentally I’ll people from society if they post a threat. We used to do this but not so much anymore.

  • Joe on 03.15.2018 at 12:04 pm

    Times the NRA was mentioned here: 4 times

    Times the FBI or Broward County Sheriff were mentioned: 0

    And believe me the irony in praising Dicks and Walmart for refusing to sell guns to those legally old enough to own them while probably condemning a store that won’t sell a wedding cake to a gay couple is not lost on me

  • Paul on 03.15.2018 at 9:31 pm

    Where exactly could a civillian legally purchase an “automatic weapon of mass destruction”? I would like to think that a professor of all people would educate themsevles on an issue before speaking on it. Guess I was wrong.

    • Jose Artigas on 03.16.2018 at 5:54 pm

      “Where exactly could a civillian legally purchase an automatic weapon of mass destruction?””

      Gun shows, legally licensed dealers, sporting goods stores,from private individuals, etc, etc. There are too many options.

      • Paul on 03.20.2018 at 9:46 pm


        Automatic weapons are very heavily regulated in the United States. It is near impossible for you or I to legally own an automatic weapon. As far as I know, the only people who can own an automatic weapon are military people with some crazy license.

        I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but I beieve that what you’re referring to when you use the term “automatic” is the AR-15 and other modern rifles like it. The AR-15 and similar rifles are actually semi-automatic, meaning that one trigger pull = one shot. It is worth noting that virtually all handguns are semi-automatic. Semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 are not machine guns.

        I think that there is a huge issue in the gun control debate, especially when it comes to “automatic” weapons. Many people who advocate stricter gun laws, like the professor I quoted, seem to think that just about anyone could walk into a store an purchase an automatic weapon, when in reality, these kinds of guns are already banned for most of the population.

        I would also disagree that a gun is a weapon of mass-destruction.

    • Jim in New Orleans on 03.17.2018 at 1:59 pm

      Paul, an automatic weapon of mass destruction can be purchased at any Academy Sports, Cabellos, etc. Yes, they sell AR-15s at these places- I saw one at Academy just last week here in metro NOLA. Go to Impactguns.com and they have them aplenty. Speaking of educating oneself before speaking…..

      Yes, an AR-15 is an automatic weapon of mass destruction. See Columbine, Parkland, etc.

      Oh and btw…….you misspelled “themselves”. Just sayin’.

      • Paul on 03.20.2018 at 9:56 pm


        Automatic weapons are actually banned in the US except for very small percentage of the population. It is near impossible for a civilian to legally own one.

        I believe that you have the wrong understanding of what “automatic” and “semi-automatic” mean. The rifles you see in gun stores are semi-automatic, meaning one pull of the trigger equals on shot fired. The AR-15 is not an automatic weapon, It is semi-auto. Also, automatic weapons were not used in Parkland or Columbine.

        As for my poor spelling, I apologize, I’m an ENG student.

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