‘Enough is enough’: Thousands demand new gun safety laws
Thousands of people gathered on the National Mall and across the United States on Saturday in renewed pressure for gun control measures following the recent deadly mass shootings from Uvalde, Texas to Buffalo, in New York State, which activists say should compel Congress to act.
“Enough is enough,” District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser said at the second March for Our Lives rally in her city. “I speak as the mayor, mom, and I speak on behalf of millions of Americans and American mayors who demand that Congress do its job. And its job is to protect us, to protect our children from gun violence.
One after another, speakers in Washington have called on senators, who are seen as a major obstacle to legislation, to act or risk being removed from office, especially given the shock to the national conscience after the deaths of 19 children and two teachers on May 24 at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.
“If there is nothing our government can do to stop 19 children from being killed and massacred in their own school, and beheaded, it’s time to change who is in government,” said David Hogg, a survivor of the 2018 shooting who killed 17 students. and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Co-founder of the March For Our Lives organization which was created after that shooting and held its first rally in Washington shortly after, Hogg led the crowd chanting “Vote them out”.
Another Parkland survivor and co-founder of the group, X Gonzalez, made an impassioned and crude plea to Congress for change. “We are being murdered,” they shouted and implored Congress to “act your age, not your shoe size.”
Yolanda King, granddaughter of Martin Luther King Jr. added, “This time it’s different because it’s not about politics. It is a question of morality. Not right and left, but right and wrong, and that doesn’t just mean thoughts and prayers. It means courage and action.
Manuel Oliver, whose son, Joaquin, was killed in the Parkland shooting, called on students ‘to avoid going back to school until our elected leaders stop avoiding the crisis of gun violence in America and start taking action to save our lives.”
Hundreds gathered at a Parkland amphitheater, where Debra Hixon, whose husband, high school athletic director Chris Hixon, died in the shooting, said he was ‘too easy’ for youngsters men to enter shops and buy weapons.
“Coming home with an empty bed and an empty seat at the table is a constant reminder that he’s gone,” said Hixon, who is now a school board member. “We weren’t done creating memories, sharing dreams and living together. Gun violence took that away from my family.
In San Antonio, about 85 miles east of Uvalde, marchers chanted “Hey, hey, ho, ho, the NRA must go.” A man who said he helped organize the rally, Frank Ruiz, has called for gun reform laws similar to those enacted in Florida after the Parkland shootings, which aimed to raise the purchase age for some firearms and reporting people with mental health issues.
The United States House of Representatives has passed bills to raise the age limit for purchasing semi-automatic weapons and establish federal “red flag” laws. A bipartisan group of senators had hoped to reach agreement this week on a framework to address the issue and held talks on Friday, but no agreement has been announced.
President Joe Biden, who was in California when the Washington rally began, said his message to protesters was to “keep marching” and added that he was “mildly optimistic” about legislative negotiations to fight the coronavirus. armed violence. Biden recently gave an impassioned address to the nation in which he called for several steps, including raising the age limit for purchasing assault-type weapons.
In New York, Mayor Eric Adams, who has campaigned to end 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 the young people stand up – not the politicians,” James said.
Hundreds of people joined the call for change and gathered in a park outside the courthouse in Portland, Maine, before crossing the Old Port and gathering outside City Hall. At one point they chanted, “Hey, hey, hey, NRA. How many children have you killed today?
John Wuesthoff, a retired Portland attorney, said he was waving an American flag during the rally as a reminder that gun control is “not un-American.”
“It’s very American to have reasonable regulations to save the lives of our children,” he said.
Hundreds of protesters in Milwaukee marched from the county courthouse to the city’s Deer district, where 21 people were shot and injured on the night of an NBA playoff game last month. Organizer Tatiana Washington, whose aunt was killed by gun violence in 2017, said this year’s march was especially important to the people of Milwaukee.
“A lot of us still think very hard about the mass shooting that happened after the Bucks game,” Washington said. “We shouldn’t be afraid to go see our team in the playoffs and live in fear of getting shot.”
The passion the issue arouses was clear in Washington when a young man jumped the barricade and attempted to rush to the scene before being intercepted by security. The incident caused 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 crowds seemed closer to 30,000. The 2018 event drew more than 200,000 people, but this time- here, the focus was on smaller steps in about 300 locations.
The youth-led movement created after the Parkland shootings successfully lobbied the Republican-dominated Florida state government to pass sweeping gun control changes. The group has not matched this nationally, but has persisted in advocating for gun restrictions since then, as well as participating in voter registration drives.
Survivors of mass shootings and other incidents of gun violence lobbied lawmakers and testified on Capitol Hill this week. 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 in the blood of a dead classmate to avoid being shot.
Associated Press writers Jennifer Peltz in New York, David Sharp in Portland, Maine and Chris Megerian in Los Angeles contributed to this report.