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Sunday, April 14, 2024
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DC community rallies at March for Our Lives event

Gun control activists and politicians spoke out against recent shootings and gun violence

The dreary forecast of rain and clouds did not stop the nearly 50,000 people that met at the National Mall on Saturday, June 11 for the March for Our Lives.

The protesters were calling upon lawmakers to enact new legislation following the recent mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo, New York

March for Our Lives, a student centered gun violence prevention organization, assembled the event, which consisted of a slate of impassioned speakers, from victims of gun violence to politicians, activists and educators calling for action.

Catherine McGee, a senior at American University, and organizer with MFOL told The Eagle that organizers took a different approach from years past when planning the march. “In 2018, the message was more hopeful and we believed we could get things done,” McGee said. “It’s been four years, and we’ve had virtually no federal legislation passed.”

David Hogg, a gun control activist and survivor of the 2018 Parkland, Florida shooting led the crowd in several chants, one of them being, “Vote them out,” in response to politicians that he believes are failing to address the issue of gun violence. Hogg co-founded MFOL in 2018.

“Here is the reality: If our government can’t do anything to stop 19 kids from being killed and slaughtered in their own school… it is time to change who is in government,” Hogg said. 

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser was among the speakers, joining the rest of the crowd in calling on Congress to enact gun control. 

“It is common sense to require background checks for guns. It is common sense to require red flag laws. It is common sense to ban assault rifles in our country,” Bowser said. 

Speaking after Bowser’s speech, RuQuan Smith, a D.C. native and founder of anti-gun violence clothing brand Love1, took the stage, criticizing Bowser, as well as other elected officials who he feels have failed to take action on gun violence prevention. “When I spoke with Mayor Bowser two years ago, about creating safer spaces for Black children and people in our city, she told me she would handle it,” Brown said. “If that were true, I wouldn’t be on this stage.” 

Justin Angelo, a junior in the School of Public Affairs attended the march, and said that he felt like it was important for him to show up, and push for a change in gun legislation. “Both of the [Buffalo and Uvalde] shootings underlined a substantial issue we have with gun policy in this country,” Angelo said. 

During a moment of silence, a brief panic flooded the crowd as an agitator caused a disturbance during the moment of silence and threw an object, leading to the majority of the crowd running away from the stage. 

Erica Ford, a New York City activist, who called on the moment of silence and was on the stage at the time, implored the crowd to not run and remain calm. “Do not run! There is no issue here,” Ford said. Shortly after, the 21-year-old man was arrested by the U.S. Park Police. 

The incident underscored many of the fears and frustrations that the attendees of the march had. Fred Guttenberg, the father of Jaime Guttenberg who was killed in the Parkland shooting, reassured the crowd, and gave further information regarding the scene. 

“Thankfully, there was no threat but it got everybody really frightened,” Guttenberg said. “The reality is, no matter where we are in America today, people do have a fear that a gun could be in the vicinity and that was an unfortunately horrifying and scary experience.”

On June 21, a bipartisan group of senators introduced a piece of legislation aimed at gun violence prevention measures including implementing red flag laws, increasing funds for school safety and mental health resources and closing the “boyfriend loophole.” 

The boyfriend loophole refers to current federal law only prohibiting domestic abusers from buying a gun if they were married to the victim, lived with or had a child with them, meaning that abusive dating partners who do not fall into that category can still have guns. 

This agreement followed a strenuous week of meetings for many organizers of MFOL, who spent the days leading up to the march, sitting down with various members of Congress on possible gun control measures. 

“I think it is really heartbreaking that young people have to be at the center of a lot of these movements because the work is really draining, and can be re-traumatizing for a lot of people.” McGee said. 

Garnell Whitfield, whose nearly 90-year-old mother was murdered in the recent racially-motivated Buffalo shooting, made a plea for stronger gun control measures at the rally.

“Enough is enough,” Whitfield said. “We will not allow you to continue to steal the futures of our children and condemn our elders to a life of fear and uncertainty, where the comfort and peace they have given their lives for is no longer available to them.” 

Editor's note: A previous version of this story said that an agitator yelled, "I have a gun," during the rally, which was not confirmed. The story has been updated to include the most up-to-date and accurate information.

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