WASHINGTON — Thousands of people gathered on the National Mall and across the United States on Saturday in renewed push for gun control measures following recent deadly mass shootings from Uvalde, Texas, to Buffalo, New York, which activists say should force Congress into action .
“Enough is enough,” District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser told the second March for Our Lives rally in her city. “I speak like a mayor, a mother, and I speak on behalf of millions of Americans and American mayors who demand that Congress do its job. And his job is to protect us, to protect our children from gun violence.”
Speaker after speaker in Washington called on senators, seen as a major obstacle to legislation, to act or be voted out, especially given the shock to the nation’s conscience after 19 children and two teachers were murdered on May 24 in Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.
“If our government can’t do anything to stop 19 children from being murdered and butchered in their own school and beheaded, it’s time to change who’s in government,” said David Hogg, a survivor of the 2018 shooting. 17 students died. and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
A co-founder of the March For Our Lives organization that was formed after that shooting and held its first rally in Washington not long after, Hogg led the crowd in chants of “Vote them out.”
Another Parkland survivor and group co-founder, X Gonzalez, made a passionate, blasphemous plea for change to Congress. “We’re being killed,” she screamed, begging Congress to “act your age, not your shoe size.”
Yolanda King, granddaughter of Martin Luther King Jr., added: “It’s different this time because this isn’t about politics. It’s about morality. Not right and left, but right and wrong, and that doesn’t mean just thoughts and prayers. That means courage and action.”
Manuel Oliver, whose son, Joaquin, was killed in the Parkland shooting, called on students “not to go back to school until our elected leaders stop avoiding the crisis of gun violence in America and start acting to save our lives.” to rescue.”
Hundreds gathered at an amphitheater in Parkland where Debra Hixon, whose husband, high school athletic director Chris Hixon, died in the shooting, said it’s “all too easy” for young men to walk into shops and to buy weapons.
“Going home to an empty bed and an empty chair at the table is a constant reminder that he is no longer there,” said Hixon, who now serves as a school board member. “We weren’t done making memories, sharing dreams and living together. Gun violence has ripped that away from my family.”
In San Antonio, about 85 miles east of Uvalde, protesters chanted “Hey, hey, ho, ho, the NRA must go.” Frank Ruiz, a man who said he helped organize the rally, called for gun reform laws similar to those in Florida after the Parkland shooting, which aimed to raise the age for buying certain firearms and marking people with mental health problems.
The US House has passed bills to raise the age limit for buying semi-automatic weapons and to institute federal “red flag” laws. A bipartisan group of senators had hoped to agree a framework this week to address the issue and held talks Friday, but no deal was announced.
President Joe Biden, who was in California when the demonstration began in Washington, said his message to protesters was to “keep marching” and added that he is “slightly optimistic” about legislative negotiations to tackle gun violence. Biden recently made an impassioned speech to the country calling for several steps, including raising the age limit for buying assault-style weapons.
In New York City, Mayor Eric Adams, who campaigned to curb violence in the nation’s largest city, joined State Attorney General Letitia James, who is suing the National Rifle Association, to lead activists across the Brooklyn Bridge.
“Nothing happens in this country until young people stand up — not politicians,” James said.
The call for change was accompanied by hundreds of people gathered in a park outside the courthouse in Portland, Maine, before marching through the Old Harbor and gathering outside City Hall. At one point they chanted, “Hey, hey, hey, NRA. How many kids did you kill today.”
John Wuesthoff, a retired Portland attorney, said he waved an American flag during the demonstration as a reminder that gun control is “not un-American.”
“It’s very American to have reasonable rules to save our children’s lives,” he said.
The passion evoked by the issue was evident in Washington when a young man jumped the barricade and attempted to run onto the stage before being intercepted by security. The incident sparked a brief panic as people began to disperse.
Organizers hoped the second March for Our Lives rally would draw as many as 50,000 people to the Washington Monument, though the crowd appeared closer to 30,000. The 2018 event drew more than 200,000 people, but this time the focus was on smaller marches at an estimated 300 locations.
The youth-led movement created after the Parkland shooting successfully pressured the Republican-dominated Florida state government to make sweeping changes to gun control. The group failed to match that nationally, but has since persisted in advocating for gun restrictions and participating in voter registration campaigns.
Survivors of mass shootings and other gun violence incidents lobbied lawmakers this week and testified on Capitol Hill. Among them was Miah Cerrillo, an 11-year-old girl who survived the shooting at Robb Elementary. She described to lawmakers how she covered herself with the blood of a dead classmate to avoid being shot.
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