March 26, 2018 / 8:35 PM / 8 months ago

Wisconsin teens take anti-gun march to U.S. House Speaker Ryan's hometown

(Reuters) - About 40 high schoolers from Wisconsin are using the start of their spring vacation to bring the weekend’s national wave of gun control marches to the hometown of Republican U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, walking the 50 miles from the state capital.

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

The trek is billed as a continuation of the marches and demonstrations on Saturday in which hundreds of thousands of teens and others took 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.

Brendan Fardella, one of the march’s student organizers, said he originally planned to spend his spring break in Florida with family but decided to join the march.

“Common sense gun reform will make us safer. I want to talk to Speaker Ryan about what we can do,” said Fardella, 17. “The beach can wait.”

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.

AshLee Strong, a Ryan spokeswoman, said in an email: “The speaker respects those expressing their views. The House recently enacted new laws to keep children safe without infringing on constitutional rights.”

Ryan, who along with many members of Congress was not in Washington on Saturday, was out of the country on Monday on an official visit to the Czech Republic. Last month he 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 to arrive in Janesville by Wednesday, she said.

Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; editing by G Crosse and Dan Grebler

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