WASHINGTON (AP) — Thousands of protestors are expected to rally in Washington, D.C., Saturday and in separate demonstrations around the country as part of a renewed push for nationwide gun control. Motivated by a fresh surge in mass shootings, from Uvalde, Texas, to Buffalo, New York, protestors say lawmakers must take note of shifting public opinion and finally enact sweeping reforms.
Organizers expect the second March for Our Lives rally to draw around 50,000 demonstrators to the Washington Monument. That’s far less than the original 2018 march, which filled downtown Washington with more than 200,000 people. This time, organizers are focusing on holding smaller marches at an estimated 300 locations.
“We want to make sure that this work is happening across the country,” said Daud Mumin, co-chairman of the march’s board of directors and a recent graduate of Westminster College in Salt Lake City. “This work is not just about D.C., it’s not just about senators.”
The first march was spurred by the Feb. 14, 2018, killings of 14 students and three staff members by a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. That massacre sparked the creation of the youth-led March For Our Lives movement, which successfully pressured the Republican-dominated Florida state government to enact sweeping gun control reforms.
The Parkland students then took aim at gun laws in other states and nationally, launching March for Our Lives and holding the big rally in Washington on March 24, 2018.
The group did not match the Florida results at the national level, but has persisted in advocating for gun restrictions since then, as well as participating in voter registration drives.
Now, with another string of mass shootings bringing gun control back into the national conversation, organizers of this weekend’s events say the time is right to renew their push for a national overhaul.
“Right now we are angry,” said Mariah Cooley, a March For Our Lives board member and a senior at Washington’s Howard University. “This will be a demonstration to show that us as Americans, we’re not stopping anytime soon until Congress does their jobs. And if not, we’ll be voting them out.”
The protest comes at a time of renewed political activity on guns and a crucial moment for possible action in Congress.
Survivors of mass shootings and other incidents of gun violence have lobbied legislators and testified on Capitol Hill this week. Among them was Miah Cerrillo, an 11-year-old girl who survived the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. She told lawmakers how she covered herself with a dead classmate’s blood to avoid being shot.
On Tuesday, actor Matthew McConaughey appeared at the White House briefing room to press for gun legislation and made highly personal remarks about the violence in his hometown of Uvalde.
The House has passed bills that would raise the age limit to buy semi-automatic weapons and establish federal “red flag” laws. But such initiatives have traditionally stalled or been heavily watered down in the Senate. Democratic and Republican senators had hoped to reach agreement this week on a framework for addressing the issue and talked Friday, but they had not announced an accord by early evening.
Mumin referred to the Senate as “where substantive action goes to die,” and said the new march is meant to spend a message to lawmakers that public opinion on gun control is shifting under their feet. ”If they’re not on our side, there are going to be consequences — voting them out of office and making their lives a living hell when they’re in office,” he said.
Associated Press writer Ian Mader in Miami contributed to this report.