Hundreds of thousands of protestors descended on Washington D.C. yesterday to demand changes to the nation’s gun laws. The march was organized by survivors of the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, last month. Outcry from students, parents, teachers and lawmakers has failed to spur Congress to enact sweeping changes to gun control laws many are requesting.
A bill that incentivizes state and local government to keep the federal background check system updated with information on individuals who should be barred from purchasing firearms was included in a $1.3 trillion spending package that was passed by Congress this week. A bill that provides $50 million a year in federal funding to states to address mental health issues and anonymous reporting systems for threats of violence, as well as $25 million for physical fortifications like metal detectors, locks and emergency notification and response technologies for law enforcement, was also included.
The Attorney General moved to ban the accessory known as the bump stock earlier this month, and other measures, including bills expanding background checks and issuing protective orders against gun possession, have also been introduced. It is unclear though, when, or if, any additional gun-related bills will be voted on in Congress.
Nearly 200,000 people attended the March For Our Lives march for gun control in the nation’s capital on Saturday. Some organizations estimate that more than 850 events took place all over the world, including in all fifty U.S. states. Marchers in countries as far away as Israel, New Zealand, Australia, the U.K., Japan, Belgium, India, France and Chile also participated. There was even a rally in Antarctica.
Marchers demanded stricter gun laws including comprehensive background checks on all gun purchases, and a ban on assault weapons. “Enough” was the protest’s rallying cry. The marchers were protesting gun violence in schools, but the movement expanded to include victims of gun violence more broadly.
Young people who lost loved ones to violence in Chicago joined the march. “It’s time for the nation to realize gun violence is more than just a Chicago problem or Parkland problem but an America problem,” Trevon Bosely, 19, whose brother was killed on the way to church in Chicago in April 2006, said.
One of the student organizers, Cameron Kasky painted the movement as a defining one for his generation. “We hereby promise to fix the broken system we’ve been forced into and create a better world for the generations to come,” Kasky told the crowd. “Don’t worry, we’ve got this.”
The White House, in a statement, applauded the marchers for exercising their free speech and attempted to tout the administration’s actions on gun safety. “We applaud the many courageous young Americans exercising their First Amendment rights today. Keeping our children safe is a top priority of the President¹s, which is why he urged Congress to pass the Fix NICS and STOP School Violence Acts, and signed them into law,” Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters said.
The National Rifle Association blasted the march however, accusing special interest groups of exploiting tragedies as part of their effort to take away legal gun-owners’ rights. “Stand and Fight for our Kids’ Safety by Joining NRA,” a post on the NRA’s Facebook page read. “Today’s protests aren’t spontaneous. Gun-hating billionaires and Hollywood elites are manipulating and exploiting children as part of their plan to DESTROY the Second Amendment and strip us of our right to defend ourselves and our loved ones.”
Protestors vowed to keep pressure on lawmakers and not let calls for action recede like they have after past tragedies. “Sandy Hook happened not too far from my hometown several years ago,” said Sophie Zipoli, a high school student who traveled to Washington from Burlington, Connecticut. “After that, I thought there’d be some significant change, yet here we are years later and there still so many mass shootings and school violence.”