Wisconsin teens take anti-gun march to House Speaker Ryan’s hometown

By Gina Cherelus

(Reuters) – About 40 high schoolers from Wisconsin are using the start of their spring break vacation to bring the weekend’s national wave of gun control marches to the hometown of Republican U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan.

The group on Monday was approaching the halfway point in its four-day, 50-mile (80-km) trek from the state capital of Madison to Janesville, Wisconsin in an event they were calling “March for Our Lives: 50 Miles More.”

The event is billed as a continuation of the marches and demonstrations on Saturday that saw hundreds of thousands of teens take to the streets of Washington and other U.S. cities nationwide to call for stricter gun laws in the wake of last month’s shooting at a Florida high school that left 17 dead.

President Donald Trump on Friday signed a $1.3 trillion budget passed by the Republican-controlled Congress that included some tweaks to U.S. gun laws including modest improvements to background checks and grants to schools to prevent gun violence.

The Wisconsin marchers on their website laid out additional demands for Ryan including that he back legislation that would ban military-style weapons for civilians, impose a national four-day waiting period on gun purchases and raise the minimum age to legally buy firearms to 21.

A representative for Ryan did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ryan, who was out of the country on Monday for the first day of an official visit to the Czech Republic, last month told a news conference that congressional Republicans were not interested in preventing Americans from owning certain types of weapons.

“We shouldn’t be banning guns from law-abiding citizens,” Ryan said at the time. “We should be focusing on making sure that citizens who should not get guns in the first place don’t get those guns.”

The students, who had marched more than 20 miles (32 km) by Monday, were spending nights on the road in schools, said Aileen Berquist, a spokeswoman for the Wisconsin march who also works for March On, a women-led political activist organization. They plan on arriving in Janesville by Wednesday, she said.

Videos on Twitter showed the students marching and chanting: “Hashtag 50 more, that’s what we’re here for! We’re walking 50 miles right up to your front door.”

Students from a high school outside Milwaukee thought up the march, with students from elsewhere around the state joining them, Berquist said.

(Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; editing by Scott Malone, G Crosse)