Massive crowds descend on DC to demand gun control

Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal proudly flaunts ‘F’ rating from NRA

By Geeta Goindi

Washington, DC, March 24, 2018 – In what could very well be a defining moment in America’s history, scores of activists flocked to the nation’s capital to demand an end to gun violence and mass shootings in schools and communities, an epidemic that has for long been plaguing the nation.

Led by survivors of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting – in which 14 students and three educators were killed by a former student armed with a military-style rifle — it is estimated that the ‘March for Our Lives’ rally in DC drew upwards of half a million protesters. Add to that the turnout in some 800 sister marches across the country and around the world and the numbers are staggering to say the least.

An Indian-American supporter of the ‘March for Our Lives’ movement points at one of the many telling signs at the massive gun control rally in Washington, on Saturday, March 24, 2018

Demonstrators decried the inaction of politicians on the scourge of gun violence and the stranglehold of the National Rifle Association (NRA) on them. Here, in the capital city, thousands held signs that read ‘Protect kids, not guns’, ‘Keep our children safe’, ‘Hey Hey NRA, How many kids did you kill today’, ‘Why are 18th century laws regulating 21st century guns’, ‘The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun are No Guns’.

People of all ages, from all across the country, packed the Avenue of the Presidents all the way towards Capitol Hill warning lawmakers to enact stronger gun control legislation or face ouster. “Enough is Enough”, declared the organizers, to accompanying chants of “Vote them Out” from the massive crowd.

David Hogg, survivor of the deadly shooting rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, lamented that every day, 96 people are killed from gun violence in the country. “Let’s put the USA over the NRA”, he said. “To those politicians supported by the NRA that allow the continued slaughter of our children and our future, I say get your resumes ready”, he warned.

Indian-American Sikhs made their presence felt at the ‘March for Our Lives’ rally in DC, demanding gun reform. Here, Montgomery County Public School Counselor Sarabjeet Saluja Bhutani is flanked by her kids Akaal (left) and Preetam

Indian-American lawmakers who have steadfastly supported effective gun control joined sibling rallies in their home state. Marching in Los Angeles, Senator Kamala Harris (Democrat – California) noted, “We’ve had the tragedies. We have the good ideas. What we need is Congress to have the courage to act”.

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (Democrat – Washington) proudly highlighted her ‘F’ rating from the NRA. The pro-gun advocacy group gives members of Congress a grade ranging from A to F that reflects their voting record on gun control.

“I have never taken money from the National Rifle Association, and they will never own my vote”, Jayapal declared. Mentioning her part in 27 legislative actions to bring about gun sense, she pledged to never let up the pressure to end gun violence.

Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington (right) bonds with former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona at the March for Our Lives rally in DC. Photo source: Twitter @ PramilaJayapal

Expressing his delight at standing shoulder-to-shoulder with students at the sister rally in Sacramento, Democratic Congressman Ami Bera of California stressed, “We must take steps to reduce gun violence and put forward common sense gun legislation”.

Inspired by the demonstrators, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (Democrat – Illinois) vowed to “keep fighting for real gun reform in Congress” cognizant “that today is only a beginning”.

Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna of California pointed out, “Americans are not divided on the issue of gun safety. The majority stands with all those who are taking to the streets today to March for our Lives. Every time that Congress fails to pass meaningful gun safety legislation, we are failing the American people”, he said.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals at least 26,000 children and teenagers younger than 18 were killed by gunfire in the US between 1999 and 2016.

Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland who participated in the DC rally drew attention to a sobering reminder. “As we march today, let us never forget the names or stories of the 481 Marylanders we’ve lost to gun violence in the last year alone”, he stated.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam who supports stronger gun laws opposed by the NRA enthusiastically participated in the event, joined by the state’s Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring.

“The energy here at the March for Our Lives is inspiring”, he said. “We owe it to all of our kids to keep this energy going beyond today”.

Congresswoman Jayapal enthused, “Let history always show that it was the young people who led us today. We are headed towards a future where our students will be protected. This is what happens when we center the most impacted and allow them to lead”.

Addressing the humongous rally, Cameron Kasky, a Stoneman Douglas student who co-founded the gun control advocacy group Never Again MSD, disclosed, “Since this movement began, people have asked me, do you think any change is going to come from this? Look around. We are the change”, he said to loud cheers from the crowd.

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