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WEST VALLEY CITY — About 35 students walked out of Hunter High School Wednesday to support of the Second Amendment and show "there is another side to this story," said student organizer Collin Thorup.
The national school walkout in March in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, may have captured international attention, but the demonstration did not reflect the feelings of students who support the Second Amendment, Thorup said.
"We can speak for ourselves. There's two sides for this. A big problem we see right now we feel everyone thinks the teens are only one-sided since the Parkland shooting survivors have been talking," Thorup said.
He explained that the group, led by members of a small but growing organization Teens for the Republic, walked out for 16 minutes because "it's estimated that 500,000 are saved by guns each year. We put it right in the middle, and figured that nearly 100 people every 16 minutes are saved by guns," he said in an interview earlier this week.
The sophomore said he was among a small group of Hunter High students who did not take part in the national school walkout on March 14, when thousands of students walked out simultaneously across their time zones for a 17-minute observance honoring the victims of the Parkland school shooting. Seventeen students and staff were killed and 17 others wounded.
Afterward, "I stated my opinions a few times and got a lot of hate for that, saying I didn't support what they were doing."
Thorup suspects that many more students feel the same way but they fear being bullied and ostracized by peers.
Essentially, the group supports the Second Amendment, seeks to protect the Constitution and opposes restrictions on the sale or use of firearms.
"They have been used by wrong people at the wrong time and they can do a lot of damage. But in the hands of good guys, they can protect us all," he said.
Thorup, whose family owns guns, said he reached out to Will Riley, a senior at Carlsbad High School in Carlsbad, New Mexico, the catalyst behind some 300 similar "Stand for the Second" demonstrations nationwide on Wednesday, and organized a walkout at Hunter High School.
Riley said he does not own a weapon but he sprung into action after retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens recently argued for a repeal of the Second Amendment.
"I believe in natural rights, and the writings of (English philosopher John) Locke and the Constitution," he said.
Mostly, Riley said he believes youths who have a different point of view to those espoused by leaders of the national school walkout should have the same opportunity to express themselves.
"People need to realize, one day this country is going to be ours, we are going to have to govern it. And we need to stand up and make sure it doesn’t turn into an authoritarian nightmare before then," he said.
"We can speak for ourselves. There's two sides for this. A big problem we see right now we feel everyone thinks the teens are only one-sided since the Parkland shooting survivors have been talking."
The Second Amendment protects the rest of the Bill of Rights, Riley said.
"It’s a slow erosion, it may not be a coup in the middle of the night, he said.
Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, dropped by Hunter High School Wednesday to support the students.
"I think we have a fantastic group of young men and women out here to support the Second Amendment and in a smaller way, all civil rights. I think that they see we have a tenuous hold on the Second Amendment as we do many of our civil rights, and I think they want those rights to be around when they come of age to have full possession of them," he said.
Asked his opinion on students being bullied because they are supporters of the Second Amendment, Aposhian said, "We see by sad experience that kids who are different in any way are sometimes singled out and bullied."
Aposhian, a member of the Utah School Safety Commission convened by Rep. Mike Kennedy, R-Alpine, a candidate for the U.S. Senate, said bullying and mental health have risen as some of the key issues before the commission.
In many instances, students who have perpetrated mass shootings at schools were bullied at school.
"They're not the jocks. They're not the most popular kids. They're not the student body representatives. They are the kid who, other than being bullied, is invisible," he said.
The commission's work is continuing, with members working on a rigorous schedule, Aposhian said.
"I think we're still on track to have a preliminary report some time later this month," he said.
Contributing: Erica Evans