Mariah Engdahl, Age 16: The Only Gun Control Advocate in Gillette, Wyoming

Coal strip mining, Gilette, Wyoming. (Getty Images)

Gillette, Wyoming, is a place where “the high school yearbook devoted four pages to ‘Hunting: No Greater Sport,’” a local club funds “college scholarships by raffling off AR-15s,” and popular slogans include, “Welcome to Wyoming: Consider Everyone Armed.”

With accompanying photography by Jabin Botsford at the Washington Post, Eli Saslow profiles Mariah Engdahl, age 16 — a girl surrounded by gun enthusiasts in her family and in her boom-and-bust mining community. Inspired by the student protests in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, she educated herself on gun laws in Wyoming and, as a one-teen protest on gun control, delivered a speech to the Campbell County school board in a bid to avoid arming teachers in her county’s schools.

Now a week later, that sign was in his house, tucked into the closet of a bedroom where Moriah had been spending much of her time, with her door closed, since the protest. In the days since the march, the “Campbell County Ten” had become the object of profane graffiti, the inspiration for a rival Freedom March and the favorite target of a new Instagram account, “Campbell County Students for America,” which shared memes comparing gun protesters to Hitler. For his part, Alan had considered grounding Moriah for skipping school but decided against it. “I’m pretty sure the rest of Wyoming is going to punish her for me,” he said, so instead he had chosen to needle Moriah at every opportunity, including now, when she came out from her bedroom and walked into the kitchen.

“Win any popularity contests at school today?” he asked her. She rolled her eyes and ignored him, so he tried again.

“Did you manage to get everyone’s guns yet?” he said.

“How many times do I have to tell you it’s not about that?” she said. “We’re just pushing for more safety, a little more control.”

“That’s a bad word,” Alan said. “First it’s gun control, then it’s confiscation. I don’t know where you learned any different.”

She was the youngest of his four daughters, each a bit more empowered than the last, and by the time Moriah turned 12 she had begun questioning her parents’ Christianity, and then started favoring abortion rights, and then calling herself a feminist, and then refusing to eat the pigs her family sometimes slaughtered for meat. “The mouthy, hard-headed one,” Alan called her, with some pride, because that was how he saw himself, too, even if they often disagreed. She advocated for gay rights in her high school, and he thought acceptance was “part of the problem, because that stuff is better off staying hidden.” She was dating a Mexican American boy named Jon, whom Alan liked but also occasionally referred to as “Mexican Juan.” She was a journalist at the high school newspaper. He thought that journalists were partially to blame for ruining America and that “the fake news wouldn’t give Trump a slap on the back if he saved two babies from a fire.”

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