By simply seeing clips of it on the news, the student walkout that took place last Wednesday can seem like an act of united student bravery and wisdom against the forces of evil in Congress.

But the massive turnout for the nationwide school walkout should not be misconstrued as a tremendous victory for the gun control agenda. There are some serious flaws in both the way the walkout was organized, and in the way it is being interpreted by hopeful adults.

From an honest perspective of a high school junior, many teenagers would spend 17 minutes doing just about anything if it meant missing class. Teachers and faculty are well aware of this considering many of them are hesitant to let kids use the bathroom during class from fear they’re not actually just using the bathroom (and they’re sometimes right).

However, many adults who themselves support gun regulations are being disingenuous in believing that every single student who participated in the walkout was there to stand up for gun control and not at all for other reasons.

Students at University Lab School in Honolulu walk out to rally against gun violence on National Walkout Day. The author argues that the protesters were not necessarily unified politically.

Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

As much as some left leaning adults want to believe, not every student there was even remotely educated on gun issues. It seemed that many students hid behind the broad umbrella demand of “more gun control,” while being ignorant of the specifics.

What kind of gun control did they want to see? What specific policies did they want Congress to pursue? What is the issue with AR-15s and not handguns? What even is a semi-automatic rifle? These are some questions that many students did not have the answer to.

Political Message Pushed

A more problematic aspect however was that prior to the walkout, it was unclear as to what the event would be representing.

There was confusion over whether it would be a memorial for the victims of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School or if it was a pro-gun control rally. There were only vague statements about the event being a “gun-violence” protest and that all views on the issue would have a place at the event.

Protesting gun violence is not inherently political. Left or right, most everybody is against gun violence. The only difference lies in the approach that each side believes works best in combatting the issue.

But as it turned out, the event was very political and pushed a very specific message: that the NRA is evil and conservatives are to blame for the horrifying shooting. This left many students who were not aware of the political nature of the rally, surprised and confused.

Even some left leaning students were shocked when the walkout became an anti-NRA, anti-right event.

One of the organizers encouraged students to call politicians (some who they deemed were corrupted by the NRA) to demand more gun control. Posted were the numbers of Sens, Marco Rubio and John McCain, and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. What Rubio, who represents Florida, has to do with our community is a mystery to me. Rubio has an obligation to represent and serve the people of his state, not teenagers in Honolulu who may or may not be educated on guns and the issues surrounding it.

Even some left leaning students were shocked when the walkout became an anti-NRA, anti-right event. While I can only speak for the school that I attend, I suspect the inconsistency between how the event was presented and how it was actually carried out may have been the case for many other schools across the country.

It is deceitful to organize the walkout as non-partisan, slap on some gun control rhetoric after the fact, then point to the event as proof that the young generation is unanimously for heavy restrictions.

This is not to say that political events or demonstrations at school should be avoided. Political activism is great. I would be the last person to suggest that it isn’t. However, political activism should not be hidden under the false pretense of a non-partisan vigil for the Parkland shooting victims.

Framing a political demonstration as a vigil makes students who may not necessarily agree with liberal solutions seem or at least feel like they’re bad people for not participating in a simple “gun violence” protest. After all, what kind of person would not be against violence.

Teenagers are treated as progressive visionaries who need no questioning when they enthusiastically promote the liberal agenda, but juveniles who need structure and control on any other occasion. Many of us teenagers are bright liberal leaders, but most of us are not. What the majority of teenagers are is compassionate and united in support for the shooting victims.

But unanimous support against gun violence and school shootings should not be conflated with agreement in policy solutions among students.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Columns generally run about 800 words (yes, they can be shorter or longer) and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.org.

About the Author