Perhaps we’ve finally reached the breaking point. Mass-murder after mass-murder, school shooting after school shooting, dead loved ones after dead loved ones, they all pile up, and the hypocritical thoughts and prayers just aren’t enough.
The calls of “too soon” surrounding discussion of meaningful gun legislation rise up from the NRA-funded politicians, and you realize it’s been “too soon” every other time this has happened and no, they never intend to actually do anything but proclaim public pieties and wait for the outrage to die down.
This time may be different.
The classmates of the victims of the school massacre in Parkland, Florida are not staying quiet. They are turning their grief to activism, in public and on social media, and asking the same questions we’ve all raised after every terrifying incident, but louder, and it looks like they’re not going to stop until some action is taken to fix the abominably weak local gun legislation in Florida and the equally bad federal weapons laws that have failed to keep our citizens safe from gun violence.
The first sign that we’ve reached a new and different level comes in the form of a large protest that took place outside the headquarters of the National Rifle Association in Fairfax, Virginia last night, taking the demand for action to the organization that is dead set on not only preventing any action at all, but actively promoting looser gun laws, in defiance of all logic but greed.
The demonstrators included friends of some of the victims in Parkland as well as relatives of victims of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting and the Congressman who represents them, Representative Gerald Connolly (D-VA). According to an account of the demonstration in The Washington Post, about 300 people in total gathered in front of the NRA headquarters on a cold Friday evening.
Amongst the crowd was Gillian Beard, a freshman at Florida Atlantic University from Coral Gables, who initially planned a trip to Washington DC for her 19th birthday, but decided to join the protest after her best friend, 17-year-old Nicholas Dworet, was killed in the Parkland assault. She wasn’t planning on speaking at the rally, but with emotions running high, she shouted her story to the assembled protestors.
“I am burying my best friend next week. . . . I grew up with him. I flew in last night, crying on the plane,” Beard told the crowd, who huddled along the sidewalk outside the building. “This is my birthday. I can’t even celebrate that I am 19 today. I lost one of my best friends because of something that could have been stopped.”
The Florida shooting brought back painful memories for Peter Reed, who lost his daughter Mary in the Virginia Tech shooting that killed 32 people.
“It very quickly takes us back to where we were in April of 2007. It’s numbing. It’s maddening,” Read told local ABC affiliate WJLA.
With protestors carrying signs proclaiming “#Enough,” “NRA Buys Congress” and “Shame. Shame,” the vitriol towards the organization preventing solutions to the nation’s gun violence problems was palpable.
Representative Connolly pointed a blaming finger directly at the NRA, saying in an address to the angry crowd:
“The NRA does have blood on its hands. They kill our children. Children are dead because of you, and that’s a literal truth.”
The Congressman threw out a gruesome statistic, that 1.5 million Americans have been killed by guns since the 1960’s, and presented a specific plan to achieve tighter gun control. Using a simple mnemonic device, Connolly called for the “A, B, C’s” of weapons control legislation.
“A represents an assault weapons ban, B stands for implementing universal background checks for gun purchases and C covers closing gun show loopholes, which critics say allow guns to be sold while circumventing existing checks on buyers,” according to the Post.
His message fell on receptive ears, at least amongst the protestors. Elizabeth Amore of Fairfax, Virginia had no direct connection to any of the shooting victims but convinced a friend to join the rally with her because she felt the need to speak up against elected officials who she said are influenced by NRA money.
“I’m here with a friend because we decided we just can’t take this anymore. We have mothers grieving down in Florida. We’re mothers ourselves, and I can’t even imagine the pain they are going through,” Amore said. “I am sick and tired of the NRA buying off politicians. We feel like it’s time for change. I hope to God that this is finally the time that people take notice and rally.”
Speaking on behalf of all of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School alumni who joined the protest last night after the shooting at their alma mater, Jacklyn Mathew, a 2010 graduate of the school who now lives in Washington, made a vow not to give up the fight against the NRA’s selfish agenda of profits over public safety.
“We stand together and say ‘No more,’ ” Mathew said. “To the people back in Parkland, Florida, know that we as Douglas alumni here in the nation’s capital are standing with you and, most importantly, standing up for you. We won’t let the tragedy be in vain, and we won’t let the rest of the country just move on.”
Let’s hope that’s she’s right and that this time it is different.
You can watch footage of the demonstration at the NRA HQ in this news report from WJLA-TV below.