Massive crowds rally to urge tighter gun controls in the U.S.

While on the other side of the debate, gun rights advocates cite constitutional guarantees of the right to bear arms
Massive crowds rally to urge tighter gun controls in the U.S.
Protesters raise signs during a "March For Our Lives" demonstration demanding gun control in New York City – Photo: Shannon Stapleton/REUTERS
24/03/2018
10:56
Reuters
Washington/Parkland
Ian Simpson & Zachary Fagenson
-A +A

On Saturday, tens of thousands of Americans gathered across the country at March For Our Lives rallies to demand tighter gun laws, led by survivors of last month’s Florida school massacre which reignited public anger over mass shootings.

Students from the Parkland, Florida, high school where 17 people were killed on February 14 were set to speak at the biggest event, in Washington, where organizers said as many as 500,000 people were expected to demonstrate near the Capitol and call on Congress to fight gun violence.

The protests aim to break a legislative gridlock that has long stymied efforts to increase restrictions on firearms sales in a nation where mass shootings at schools and colleges have become a frighteningly frequent occurrence.

“I don’t want any child to be seen as another statistic,” said Ashley Schlaeger, an 18-year-old freshman at Ohio State University who drove to the Washington rally with friends.

In the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Parkland, thousands of people passed through police checkpoints to assemble in a park for a rally and march. Many held signs with slogans including “Am I Next?” “A Call To Arms For the Safety of Our Sons and Daughters” and “Congress = Killers.”

Adam Buchwald, who survived the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, told the crowd he and his friends would stay focused on getting new legislation passed.

“Sadly, this could be repeated in your city or town. This stops now!” he said to loud cheers.

At a rally in New York, a moment of silence was held for the Parkland victims. The accused gunman, 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz, faces the death penalty if convicted.
 

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Organizers want the U.S. Congress, many of whose members are up for re-election this year, to ban the sale of assault weapons like the one used in the Florida rampage and to tighten background checks for gun buyers.

However, on the other side of the debate, gun rights advocates cite constitutional guarantees of the right to bear arms.

On Friday, Republican President Donald Trump signed a USD$1.3 trillion spending bill that includes modest improvements to background checks for gun sales and grants to help schools prevent gun violence.

Democrats and nonpartisan groups hope to register at least 25,000 first-time voters at the rallies, potentially a boost for Democrats, who generally favor stricter gun controls.

White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters said the administration applauded “the many courageous young Americans” exercising their free-speech rights on Saturday.

“Keeping our children safe is a top priority of the president’s,” said Walters, noting that on Friday the Justice Department proposed rule changes that would effectively ban “bump stock” devices that let semi-automatic weapons fire like a machine gun.

It should be noted that more than 800 demonstrations were set to take place in U.S. cities from Los Angeles to New York and in countries around the world, according to coordinators.

While plenty of celebrities such as Amy Schumer, Ariana Grande, George Clooney, Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift, have shown their support behind the March for Our Lives.

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