Thousands of students take part in the ‘March For Our Lives’ rally against gun violence in Washington, DC on Saturday.
(PKONWEB Report) — Hundreds of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets across the US to call for tighter gun control.
The March For Our Lives movement arose after 17 deaths in a school shooting in Parkland, Florida, last month.
Student leader and Parkland survivor Emma Gonzalez gave a powerful speech at the main Washington DC event.
After listing the names of the victims, she stayed silent on stage for six minutes, 20 seconds – the time it took for them to be killed.
Huge crowds – including a high proportion of young people and children – gathered along Pennsylvania Avenue, with placards reading “Protect kids not guns” and “Am I next?”.
More than 800 sister protests were planned nationwide and abroad, with solidarity events taking place in Edinburgh, London, Geneva, Sydney and Tokyo.
As events began to draw to a close on the US east coast, they continued on the west, including a major demonstration in Los Angeles.
The student organizers of these gun control rallies vowed on Sunday there will be no letup in their campaign for reform.
The nationwide protests on Saturday were by far the largest in nearly two decades, part of a reignited gun control debate sparked by last month’s killings at a Florida high school.
“This is not the end. This is just the beginning,” Emma Gonzalez, a leader of the movement, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
According to a new poll by the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, some 69% of Americans think gun laws should be tightened, up from 61% in October 2016.
Gonzalez, 17, is a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, north of Miami — which was traumatized into action last month after 14 students and three staff were killed by a former student armed with a military-style rifle.
She captivated Saturday’s rally in Washington, the nation’s largest, with an emotional eulogy for her dead schoolmates that ended with a plea to “get out there and vote” a lengthy silence to symbolize the time span of the shooting spree.
In a country with more than 30,000 gun-related deaths a year, Gonzalez is among those calling for legislative action.
“We’re going to be revving up for the elections” this November, when Congressional seats will be at stake, Gonzalez said on CBS.
“Over the summer we’re going to try to go around to colleges and … reach out to the kids locally around the country.”
Cameron Kasky, a fellow student from Stoneman Douglas, said the rallies — including the Washington protest that filled streets around the US Capitol building — prompted many voter registrations and discussions.
“So the fact that this movement has so many people realizing that it’s important to get out to the polls is what I think is one of the best things that we’ve accomplished,” Kasky said on “Fox News Sunday.”
The students said that, despite some initial signs that President Donald Trump would take greater action after the Parkland shooting, Washington has done little.
Trump’s administration is increasing aid to states that want to arm school staff, endorsed minor legislation to improve background checks by gun dealers, and announced a commission on school safety, among other measures.
“I was not impressed, at all,” Kasky said, noting that churches, nightclubs and theaters as well as schools have all been targeted by gunmen.
He and other students want assault weapons and high-capacity magazines banned, and the age limit raised to 21 for gun purchases.
“What causes all these shootings? What’s the one thing to tie everything together? There’s no specific mental health problem that makes all these shootings happen, it’s the weapon,” Kasky said.
Students aren’t going away
“And the fact that they aren’t taking any action toward it is proof that we need to keep on going.”
He and Delaney Tarr, another Stoneman Douglas student, suggested Trump had backed away from firmer action after he met with the powerful National Rifle Association lobby group.
Mercedes Schlapp, a senior White House advisor, told Fox News that Trump “has taken immediate action” to address gun safety.
“We want to make sure that the good people are the ones who are able to carry the firearms,” Schlapp said.
“We want to keep the firearms out of the hands of dangerous individuals because that is just what the priority is right now,” she said. “That’s what we are focused on.”
In an editorial, The Washington Post said the measures taken by Trump and Congress so far are welcome, but just “baby steps.”
The newspaper said the students have made clear “they aren’t going away” in their push for action.
Ohio’s moderate Republican Governor John Kasich, a possible 2020 presidential contender, agreed that his party could face an electoral backlash if Congress does not act on gun control.
“I really do believe that,” he told CNN, adding that the students’ momentum must continue.
“If they don’t keep it up, those that want no change will just sit on their hands.”