Local teens take charge on gun control, Seattle ‘March for Our Lives’

SEATTLE -- Tucked away in the corner of Capitol Hill's Cupcake Royale, local high school students are getting ready to send a message.

"Gun violence is something that impacts our lives and we're no longer going to wait for adults to take action on it," said Rhiannon Rasaretnam, 17, a senior at Tahoma High School in Maple Valley.

"The adults have had their chance," added Emilia Allard, 18, a student at Seattle's Ballard High School. "They've had so many chances to make the change that we need and they're not doing it."

Together, Emilia and Rhiannon co-founded Seattle's March For Our Lives, a nationwide, student-led movement that was sparked by the high school massacre in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed by a former student armed with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

"My first reaction was just of disappointment that it was happening again," Rhiannon said. "After I heard more about the deaths and the circumstances, I gradually became more angry at the fact that it happened."

After hearing Parkland students rise up to organize a nationwide rally, Rhiannon wanted to do her part here at home.

"When I went on Facebook, I didn't see anything for it yet so I decided to make a page," she said.

Through social media, she met Emilia, who had a similar thought and also created a Facebook and Instagram account the same day. The two merged and now more than 10,000 people say they're attending Saturday's downtown rally.

It's social media that's helped fuel a movement and connect students from different schools all over the region. Those who can't make it to meetings will FaceTime organizers downtown, while those who can be there in person are making signs for the march.

For both Emilia and Rhiannon, one driving force is behind their motivation to make a difference: Each has a little sister she hopes to protect.

"I just needed to know that I'd done everything I could for Charlotte and those other kids if this were to happen," Emilia said.

The actions these students want to take include raising the minimum purchasing age for firearms and banning assault-style weapons.

"Even though some of us can't vote yet, we're still going to hold our officials accountable because they still represent us and they should still be protecting our lives," Rhiannon said.

Some of the officials who plan on attending Saturday's rally include Gov. Jay Inslee, Sen. Maria Cantwell and state Attorney General Bob Ferguson.