A Letter From a Gun Owner About Why the Walk Out is Important


Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

Laura Kelly and Tom Raslevich

In every act of gun violence, I see those I care about in the faces of the victims. At every mention of Sandy Hook Elementary, I see my cousins barely beginning elementary school whose backpacks are almost too big for them to carry. When I heard the first mention of the Pulse shooting in Orlando, I saw my best friend who was a vocal member of and activist for the LGBT+ community. Gun violence has been a reality in our country for years and at first I couldn’t explain why this particular tragedy felt so different.

In the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, I saw myself. I saw my teachers. I saw my friends and peers.

I’ve never felt the anger that I did when it was made so blatantly clear that there was such disregard for my safety, my well-being, and for that of everyone in my classes and in the hallways around me. I’ve never felt the fear of having to practice another lockdown drill so soon after, because it was practice for something that no longer felt unlikely. I had never felt such a heavy sadness for kids that I didn’t know and never would know.

My grandfather has been a responsible gun owner for nearly 50 years. For as long as I’ve known him, he has been a quiet person who doesn’t enjoy discussing politics except for the occasional grumble about our current administration. However, completely out of character, he wrote a letter to me and to the rest of Obama that reiterates several points. The current protection from gun violence is not enough. He, along with the rest of our parents, grandparents, and loved ones, no longer want to be afraid for our safety when we simply get on the bus for school. Gun ownership is being prioritized over the education and safety of children everywhere. Most importantly, the walkout on Wednesday and the action that students at Obama and across the country are taking is important and necessary. We have seen too many articles with the words “mass shooting” in the headline in our lifetime. This threat is our call to action.

Laura Kelly, Obama sophomore.

To the students, leadership, and staff of Obama Academy –

I am the proud grandfather of sophomore student Laura Kelly. I just received word that the students of your school, and many schools in our country with student guidance, will hold a 17 minute walk out on March 14, 2018 in remembrance and support of the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and to call attention to improving student safety by reducing gun violence across our country.

We as a society have always been told and taught that we, the adults, the educators, religious leaders, parents, and grandparents, are the teachers, and that young people are the students. We as adults are the change makers, and social leaders; you as students are supposed to follow our leadership example because we are the knowledgeable and sensible leaders of our society.

After this latest tragic shooting, students across our country are demanding new legislation so they can go to school and feel safe, and so they may return home at night. With this movement, I feel we have seen a great change in our society.  Students such as yourselves are not standing against powerful leaders, politicians or lobbyist groups, but they are standing up to them; they are saying please, make the changes we want today, or we will change things you don’t want tomorrow. Today, it seems the students are now the leaders and teachers, and we as adults are now the students.

Will the students who have started this movement be able to make the change they are looking for? I sincerely hope so.  But more importantly, will the adults in our society be able to accept the change that is coming? I truly hope so. Now that I see this movement spreading across so many regions in the United States, I am more confident that our young will become the leaders of tomorrow that we truly need. With that, I have a greater feeling of confidence that our country will survive and prosper. I have never since the ’60’s seen a movement this great, this united, or this meaningful.

I am proud of Laura as a granddaughter, but even more so now, as she is taking part of a movement that will always be remembered as a social changing event. Thank you for standing together, for your support of not only my granddaughter, but of one another, and of all students and families across our country. Thank you for standing up for us, and for starting a movement that will bring about a better future. We are in great hands.


Tom Raslevich, Johnstown, PA.