Thousands rally for gun reform after mass shootings in America

Image Source: AP

Workers prepare for the March for Our Lives rally on the National Mall near the White House in Washington.

Thousands of protesters are expected to rally in Washington, D.C., Saturday and in separate demonstrations across the country as part of a renewed push for nationwide gun control. Inspired by a fresh surge in mass shootings from Uvalde, Texas to Buffalo, New York, protesters say lawmakers should focus on changing public opinion and eventually implement sweeping reforms.

Organizers expect the second March for Our Lives rally to attract some 50,000 protesters to the Washington Monument. That’s far less than the original 2018 March, which filled downtown Washington with more than 200,000 people. This time around, the organizers are focusing on holding smaller marches at an estimated 300 locations.

“We want to make sure this work is happening across the country,” said Daud Moomin, co-chair of the March Board of Directors and a recent graduate of Westminster College in Salt Lake City. “This job isn’t just about DC, it’s not just about the senators.”

The first march was prompted on February 14, 2018, 14 students and three staff members were murdered by a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. That massacre led to the creation of the youth-led March for Our Lives movement, which successfully pressured the Republican-dominated Florida state government to implement sweeping gun control reforms.

Parkland students then targeted gun laws in other states and nationally, starting the March for Our Lives and holding a large rally in Washington on March 24, 2018.

The group did not match Florida’s results nationally, but has since continued to advocate for gun restrictions as well as participate in voter registration campaigns.

Now, with another string of mass shootings bringing gun control back into the national conversation, organizers of this weekend’s events say the time is right to renew their push for a national overhaul.

“Right now we’re angry,” said Maria Cooley, a March for Our Lives board member and a senior at Howard University in Washington. “It will be a demonstration to show that we, as Americans, will not stop anytime soon unless Congress does its job. And if not, we will vote for them.”

The protest comes at a critical moment for renewed political activity on guns and potential action in Congress.

Survivors of mass shootings and other incidents of gun violence lobbied for legislators and testified on Capitol Hill this week. Among them was Mia Cerillo, an 11-year-old girl who narrowly escaped a shooting at Rob’s Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. He told lawmakers how he covered himself with the blood of a dead classmate to avoid being shot.

On Tuesday, actor Matthew McConaughey appeared in the White House briefing room to press for gun legislation and made highly personal remarks about the violence in his hometown of Uvalde.

The House has passed bills that would raise the age limit for purchasing semi-automatic weapons and establish federal “red flag” laws. But such initiatives have traditionally stalled or been overwhelming in the Senate. Democratic and Republican senators expected to reach agreement this week on a framework to address the issue and spoke on Friday, but did not announce a deal until evening.

Moomin referred to the Senate as “where real action goes to die”, and said the new march is meant to send a message to lawmakers that public opinion on gun control is shifting beneath their feet. “If they’re not on our side, there are going to be consequences – throwing them out of the office and making their lives hell when they’re in the office,” he said.

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