This speech was delivered by Chaz Nuttycombe, a senior at Hanover High School, on Saturday, March 24, at the March For Our Lives in Richmond. It is reposted with Chaz's permission. The views expressed in this blog post belong to the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of the ACLU of Virginia.

Good morning, Richmond! My name is Chaz Nuttycombe. I am a senior over at Hanover High School in Mechanicsville. I am 18 years old. That means I cannot purchase alcohol, rent a car or run for a seat in our state legislature. But in the Commonwealth of Virginia, for some reason, I can go into a store and purchase a weapon of war.

But I can also vote. I voted for the first time in my life last November, for candidates who have never taken money from groups that seek to hinder the progress we desperately need to combat this epidemic. Instead of voting for candidates who want to give my teachers guns, I voted for candidates who want to give them the pay raises they deserve. I will continue to choose candidates who want more books in our schools, not bullets! I choose candidates who want more counselors, not combat vests! I choose candidates who want more magazines for reading, not magazines for killing!

This November, many of you have the chance to vote for these same type of candidates. What you’re doing right now is powerful, but the most powerful tool in the arsenal of a citizen in this great country is not your right to protest, but your right to vote. Now, I understand there are plenty of people in this audience who will not be old enough to vote this November. But you can still help by volunteering or interning with a congressional campaign to help elect a candidate who pledges to vote for common sense gun regulation. Help unseat those who are too stubborn to change their mind on this issue. Because if we can’t change their minds, we will change their seats.

Every election, people always say, “this election is the most important election of your lifetime.” There is definite truth to this, because the stakes get higher and higher in each and every election. So today, we march for our lives, but come this November, we must vote for our lives. And not just this November. In November 2019, when the Virginia House of Delegates and State Senate are up for election, we must vote for our lives. In November 2020, we must vote for our lives. We must remember every November. Remember the 13 at Columbine. The 32 at Virginia Tech. The 27 at Sandy Hook. The 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Remember in November to support candidates who will dedicate their careers to making sure massacres like these never happen again. Thank you.

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