In remembrance of the 17 victims of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on Feb. 14, dozens of students, faculty and community members gathered at the Griz Statue at 10 a.m. on March 14.

The gathering, promoted on Facebook as University of Montana Enough! School Walkout, was an act of solidarity with hundreds of other 17-minute walkouts across the nation. About 400 people attended the demonstration at UM, Montana Public Radio News Director Eric Whitney tweeted.

Freshman Maggie Bornstein said she organized the event about three weeks ago. She said other high schools and colleges were starting events but no one had at UM.

“No one else was going to do it. I guess it has to be me,” said Bornstein.

Bornstein, a double major in political science and African American studies, said people in the community are feeling a lot of emotions and she hopes this event provides an outlet.

Tables were set up encouraging attendees to write letters to their government representatives and register to vote.

UM Sophomore Maggie Gammons wrote a letter to Republican Sen. Steve Daines expressing her disappointment with his inaction and asking that he listen to voters instead of those that fund him.

According to, Daines has received $121,711 in support from the NRA since 2012. $9,700 was directly from the NRA and $75,732 was from independent NRA members. The total figure also encompasses $36,279 expended against Daines’ political opponents.

Democratic Congressional candidate Kathleen Williams and her supporters set up a table and met students in front of the Griz Statue.

Williams, who is running for Montana’s Congressional seat this fall, is a gun owner and hunter. She said that assault rifles are not typical wildlife hunting weapons but she is not against them being used in a controlled environment such as a shooting range.

“It’s not about taking away guns, it’s about more responsible gun ownership,” Williams said.

She wants to see more citizens involved in hunter safety programs and supports individuals with domestic violence and stalking convictions not being able to own firearms.

Nathan Stephens, a UM alum, described himself as a lifelong Missoulian. He carried a sign showing an AR-15 and the words “A$$AULT RIFLE$. NEVER AGAIN.”

Stephens, a father of two, protested corporate money involved in the legislative process, lobbyists and the NRA. The sign “speaks for itself,” he said.

On the opposite side of the Griz Statue, UM student Ethan Holmes set up a poster with the words “We All Have a Right to Prevent Mass Violence and Genocide.” Pictures of Hitler, Stalin and Mao along with the number of people killed by their regimes bordered the center.

Holmes said it is a tragedy to see 17 young, innocent people die in a shooting, but everyone has the fundamental right to prevent genocide, a right that cannot be exercised unless people have access to firearms.

“The seizure of the right to protect oneself is the common denominator in genocides,” he said.

Holmes wanted to start a conversation at the event and said that a dialogue needs two parties.

As people walking around Griz Statue came upon his poster, discussion heated up over the purpose of automatic weapons.

“They’re designed to kill people,” said a man who declined to give his name.

As cameras and microphones honed into the exchange, Julie Tompkins climbed behind Holmes and strategically placed her sign “Educated People Don’t Need to Carry Guns” at the feet of the golden bear.

Tompkins, an administrator and academic adviser in the environmental studies department, said that arming teachers and students breeds an environment of fear and violence that is not necessary on college campuses.

At 10:17 a.m., Maggie Bornstein stood with a megaphone, thanking those for coming and inviting them to stay and continue their conversations.

Bornstein sees the walkout as a wake up call for students and hopes they become more involved in their communities.

“We have to do more than walk out,” she said.