Teens at a Seattle town hall rail against gun violence

SEATTLE -- "I think seeing the activism from the Parkland (Florida) survivors really has been inspiring people around the county to form their own marches," says Rhiannon Rasaretnam.

Rhiannon is a senior at Tahoma High School in rural Maple Valley. She was surprised that no one in the Seattle area had jumped on organizing a local "March For Our Lives" rally. So, and Emilia Allard from Seattle's Ballard High School did just that.

The duo have only known each other for a few weeks-- but are planning a rally they hope will draw thousands to march against gun violence.

"Be passionate about your views," says Allard, who has marched for other causes like the first Women's March and March for Science a year ago. "At least for myself, there's been so many issues I've felt passionate about, but I didn't act on."

While the two teens aren't old enough to vote, they and some students got some time with Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan before her town hall on the same topic at Chief Sealth High School on a rainy Thursday night. They were two of dozens of people from the community including parents and students at the forum.

"We also know that too many people die from gun violence," Durkan told the audience. "That includes from suicide and accidents, too. We need better strategies, so kids can't get access to guns."

The five-person panel included a middle school principal, a junior at a Seattle high school involved with the 'Youth in Peace' project, a Harborview Medical Center doctor who is a pediatrician, a UW professor who has done research on gun violence and how it affects communities, and a director from the Duwamish Valley Youth Core.

All five took audience questions asked electronically. Topics like Seattle's extreme protection orders to keep guns away from people who might do harm to themselves and others -- and weapons storage ordinances to prevent the annual 250 gun thefts reported on average in the Emerald City.

"I've waited more than 20 years since my brother was killed to have some of these conversations about common sense legislation to come to the forefront," says middle school principal Nyla Fritz.

Her brother was killed in the Moses Lake school shooting in 1996.

For the two students organizing this weekend's rally, they want other teens that they can have a voice and have it now.

"I think it's important for students to see that they can have a voice before they turn 18," says Rhiannon.

While the students seemed excited to get active, the student-led "March For Our Lives" in Seattle on March 24 could just be the first of many steps for these teens.

Everyone Q13 News talked to was very excited to be of legal voting age so they could have more of a voice in this civic conversation.