Sand In My Shoes

They’re Not Kidding Around

Sinéad Murray addresses the crowd in Sag Harbor. | Independent/Justin Meinken

Like politics, all school shooting victims are local.

And so, as millions swarmed to anti-gun violence March for Our Lives protests in Washington, DC, Manhattan, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, and 800 other major venues across the globe, Sinéad Murray, 18, a Pierson High School senior, helped organize a march last Saturday right here in her home town of Sag Harbor.

“When we look at Parkland, Florida, it’s a safe, affluent area like the East End where nobody thought a school shooting would ever happen,” Murray says. “And then, of course, it did happen and innocent kids and teachers were murdered just like in the shootings that happened in Columbine and Sandy Hook. And you realized that, yes, it could happen here in the East End. But this time the amazing Parkland students decided to take a stand and say enough is enough.”

Soon, the country was spellbound by Emma Gonzalez and other kids from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where on Valentine’s Day, 17 students and teachers were slaughtered by a monster with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

For these survivors, the usual “thoughts and prayers” offered by cheap, on-the-take politicians rang hollow. Parkland students stormed onto the national stage, igniting a prairie fire from sea to bloody sea with their cell phones and social media, fanning the flames with their impassioned, eloquent, gun-smoke-cured voices.

The kids were shooting back at the odious gun lobby with a powerful message.

Those voices of the Never Again movement reached the East End where school kids like Sinéad Murray were moved to action. “I heard those inspiring kids loud and clear,” says Murray who turned 18 in January and had already registered to vote. “I participated in the Women’s March in Sag Harbor so I already felt connected to a national movement.”

When the Parkland kids announced a national walkout on March 14 for 17 minutes to honor each of the 17 fallen, Murray helped organize a walkout at Pierson High. “I didn’t know what to expect,” says Murray. “To my amazement, about 200 of the 400 kids in the school walked out. That’s huge in a small school like ours. Some kids were raised with rifles and support the Second Amendment, but the kids also know we could be the next targets of a live shooter. We don’t want to get shot at school. So, it is important to respect other people’s beliefs but most of us agree that something like banning assault weapons, limiting magazine size, [and] much stricter background checks must happen to end gun violence. Arming teachers is the silliest idea I ever heard.”

Murray also answered the call for a national March for Our Lives protest on March 24 that included the astounding gathering in Washington, DC [hundreds of thousands of] kids who will help carry the nation into the third decade of the 21st century protested the inertia, greed and cowardice of those National Rifle Association-bribed congresspersons who fled the nation’s capital like a retreating army of sewer rats.

The kids also placed in their non-violent crosshairs an indifferent President Trump — fat with $30 million in NRA campaign payola — who, while these kids mourned the victims of all school shootings since Columbine, was busy blasting golf balls down the fairway in Mar-a-Lago as he prepared for real issues that mattered to him . . . like Stormy Daniels.

Never again.

The kids were saying that when they turned 18, never again would the votes of the young go to self-absorbed bums like Trump, more loyal to the NRA than the USA.

Those who chose to protest in their home towns directed their Never Again rage at a local member of Congress.

“I simply cannot wait to go to the polls on Election Day and vote against greedy Lee Zeldin,” says Murray. “I know that every kid who cares about school gun violence will vote against their local member of Congress who gets an A rating from the NRA by trading their votes for campaign money while kids get shot to death in school.”

Many of these kids will influence their parents’ vote, instead of the traditional other way around.

“My parents are very supportive,” says Murray. “My mom supports me completely. At first, when I got involved in the Women’s March, my dad thought it was odd for me being so publically active in political issues. But now that I am 18, registered to vote, he watches us make signs at home — WE CALL BS, ME TOO, NEVER AGAIN. He respects that I am exercising my right to free speech and assembly.”

How about her teachers?

“Most respect what I am doing,” she says. “The school officials in Pierson High were against us wearing or selling pink p**** hats for the Me Too Women’s March. Which was weird, because they had no objection to us putting up flyers for the anti-gun violence March for Our Lives. But my AP Government teacher, Miss Duff, has my back because I am doing exactly what we study in her class. I am participating in government, in our democracy. She’s the smartest, kindest lady you’d ever meet. But she’s afraid too, just like the students, of some nut walking in some day with a gun.

The last thing Miss Duff wants is to have to aim a gun at an armed student. And then have a loose gun floating around the classroom. Insane.”

What about other students’ reactions to her activism?

“Most support it,” she says. “Some, I’m sure, disagree with me and say so behind my back and might even condemn it. But none have said so to my face. I’m cool with people disagreeing with me. That’s what democracy is all about. Let’s find common ground, because no kid wants to get shot in school.”

You’ve heard the resounding voices of the Parkland kids all over TV and radio. But in thousands of small American towns there are similar voices of kids like Sinead Murray who will make a national difference in November, picking off Congress members who for years have taken NRA blood money that has helped turn our sacred schoolhouses into slaughter houses.

“I will listen to any reasonable person with respect and evaluate all your ideas if you are also serious about politics and the gun violence issue,” says Murray. “But if you do not vote, if you just mouth off and think this is a big joke, then I won’t take you seriously. The right to vote in a real election that matters is what makes this country great as opposed to, say, that sham election they just had in Russia. So, we will register people to vote at all the Never Again events until Election Day. We as young people will change the country at the ballot box.”

Still, on Saturday morning Sinead Murray was worried that the Sag Harbor March for Our Lives protest was a bust.

“By 10:35 AM there was nobody there,” she says. “Then people started arriving. Many of them students. But also, hundreds of adults. And, by the end, we had like 900-plus people, bigger than the Women’s March, the largest protest maybe ever in Sag Harbor, and we registered over a hundred new voters.”

Congressman Lee Zeldin did not attend.

“Maybe because the consensus was overwhelmingly anti-Zeldin,” says Murray. “Oddly, there was no resistance, no counter-protest, even from local hunting advocates. This tells me that many people are starting to see things the way the kids do. The kids don’t want to get shot at school, at concerts, in movie theaters. And neither do their parents and grandparents. “

And so here was a kid, now old enough to vote, telling the adults, especially her elected member of Congress, that she will no longer accept the status quo on gun violence and that Congressmen like Zeldin who take NRA blood money across the country will not get the votes of the young or many of their frightened parents.

“If we only vote for candidates who pledge not to take NRA money it will make the NRA extinct,” says Murray.

After graduating Pierson High, Sinead Murray plans to major in political science in either Lafayette College or University of Vermont. “I love politics and government and on Saturday, I got a major lesson in civics,” she says.

Millions of young people like Sinead Murray across the fruited plain are going to change this gun sick country.

Starting in once drowsy small towns like Sag Harbor where all politics and school shootings are local.

To comment on Sand in My Shoes, email denishamill@gmail.com.