WASHINGTON (AP) — Thousands of people gathered on the National Mall and across the United States on Saturday for renewed gun control action following the recent deadly mass shooting Uvalde, Texasto Buffalo, New Yorkactivists 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 mayor, as mother, and I speak for millions of Americans and American mayors demanding 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 the main obstacle to legislation, to act or face their vote, especially given the shock to the nation’s conscience after May 24 the killing of 19 children and two teachers in of Robb Primary School in Uvalde.
“When our government can’t do anything to stop 19 children being killed, slaughtered and beheaded in their own school, it’s time for a change of government,” said David Hogg, a survivor of the 2018 shooting of 17 students were killed and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
As a co-founder of the March For Our Lives organization, which was formed after that shooting and held its first rally in Washington shortly thereafter, Hogg led the crowd with chants of “Vote them out.”
Another Parkland survivor and group co-founder, X Gonzalez, made an impassioned, obscene plea to Congress for change. “We’re going to be assassinated,” she yelled, imploring Congress to “go by her age, not her shoe size.”
Yolanda King, granddaughter of Martin Luther King Jr., added: “This time it’s different because it’s not about politics. It’s about morals. Not right and left, but right and wrong, and that doesn’t just mean thoughts and prayers. That means courage and action.”
Manuel Oliver, whose son Joaquin was killed in the Parkland shooting, urged students to “avoid going back to school until our elected leaders stop avoiding America’s gun violence crisis and start acting 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 it was “all too easy” for young men to go into stores and buy guns .
“Going home to an empty bed and an empty seat at the table is a constant reminder that he’s gone,” said Hixon, who now serves as a school board member. “We weren’t done making memories, sharing dreams and living life together. Gun violence ripped that away from my family.”
President Joe Biden, who was in California when the rally began in Washington, said his message to protesters was “keep marching on,” adding he was “slightly optimistic” about gun violence legislation negotiations. Biden recently delivered an impassioned address to the nation, calling for several steps including raising the age limit for purchasing assault weapons.
In New York City, Mayor Eric Adams joined Attorney General Letitia James in his efforts to curb violence in the country’s largest city. suing the National Rifle Associationby leading activists across the Brooklyn Bridge.
“Nothing happens in this country until young people stand up – not politicians,” James said.
The call for change was joined by hundreds of people who gathered in a park in front of the courthouse in Portland, Maine, before marching through Old Port and gathering in front of City Hall. At one point they sang, “Hey, hey, hey, NRA. How many children did you kill today.”
John Wuesthoff, a retired Portland attorney, said he waved an American flag during the rally as a reminder that gun control is “not un-American.”
“It’s very American to have sensible regulations to save the lives of our children,” he said.
The passion the subject inspires was evident in Washington when a young man jumped the barricade and attempted to storm the stage before being intercepted by security forces. The incident sparked a brief panic as people began to disperse.
Organizers hoped the second March for Our Lives rally would draw up to 50,000 people to the Washington Monument, although the crowd appeared to be closer to 30,000. The 2018 event attracted more than 200,000 people, but this time the focus was on smaller marches at an estimated 300 locations.
The youth-led movement formed after the Parkland shooting successfully pressured the Republican-dominated Florida state government to enact sweeping gun control changes. The group failed to do so nationally, but has since continued to advocate for gun restrictions and participate in voter registration campaigns.
Survivors of mass shootings and other gun violence incidents lobbied and testified for lawmakers on Capitol Hill this week. was among them Miah Cerrillo, an 11-year-old girl who survived the shooting at Robb Elementary School. She described to lawmakers how she covered herself in the blood of a dead classmate to avoid being shot.
The House of Representatives has passed bills to raise the age limit for purchasing semi-automatic weapons and introduce federal “red flag” laws. A bipartisan group of senators had hoped to reach agreement this week on a framework to resolve the issue and held talks on Friday, but no agreement was announced.
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