On Saturday, March 24, more than 55,000 demonstrators peacefully gathered throughout Grand Park in Downtown Los Angeles to call for gun control legislation. This rally was a response to the recent shootings at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida where, on February 14 of this year, 17 people were killed and just as many were injured.
The massacre in Parkland was carried out by a perpetrator using an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle with multiple magazines. In response to this tragedy, on March 9th, the Republican governor of Florida, Rick Scott, signed a bill raising the minimum legal age to posses a rifle in Florida to 21 and increased the scrutiny of background checks for gun sales. This bill also allowed for qualified teachers to carry firearms at school. The National Rifle Association (NRA) bucked at the governor's attempt to regulate gun sales, and the public gave an outcry at the thought of arming teachers to protect our schools against child shooters.
The protesters in DTLA joined the hundreds of thousands who marched in Washington, D.C. and across the nation last Saturday. The March for Our Lives organization is calling for five specific steps to be taken. 1) Fund gun violence research and prevention programs. 2) Eliminate restrictions on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) allowing for a more transparent industry. 3) Require universal background checks for gun sales. 4) Ban high-capacity magazines. 5) Ban assault weapons.
Students, parents and teachers made up the majority of the crowd on the warm afternoon. Walking down Broadway, I stopped to listen to a mother share a story about how her son is having nightmares about being shot at school. Moving through Grand Park, I overheard a student comment that the first time she will be able to vote, will be to vote Trump out of office.
On one hand, there was an undercurrent of fear and frustration in the stories people told, but greater than that, there was a sense of fellowship and unity amongst the demonstrators. People shared about themselves with others, connected on social media, and passed out water bottles to young protesters who held their homemade signs for hours.
As I made my way through the crowd, a high-school student was giving a speech from the main stage. From the speaker's vantage point, he was overlooking tens of thousands of people.
For a moment, he stuttered and hesitated. The girl standing next to me immediately shouted out, "You got this". The lesson in that moment is that when you step up to share your voice, others want to see you succeed.
The atmosphere of the event seemed to pull into a deeply appreciative space, at least for me, when Charlie Puth performed "See You Again" and shared a story about his friend who passed away. This song always makes me think of my best friend who died when we were still in high-school.
Tragedies like the recent shooting in Florida connect with people on a deeply personal level. We can empathize with the victims and their loves ones because we have also felt loss in our own lives. But, what if something could be done to prevent a tragedy? Would you not fight for that?
The March for Our Lives movement is calling for reasonable gun control that still respects the second amendment. The great American gun debate seems to have been around forever, and although I do believe that we should have the right to protect ourselves and own firearms, I think that it is unreasonable for citizens to own military-style assault weapons and extended clips. I also believe in the need for stricter background checks and more transparency in the gun industry.
If you are pushing for gun reform, the next step would be to vote in the mid-term elections on November 6, 2018. Do your research and vote out politicians that do not support the issues that are important to you.