Rounds

News and notes on guns in America

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Left to right: Students gather for a rally at March for Our Lives in McKinney, Texas, in March. Jessie Parks, 16, holds a lone die-in at his Congressman's office in June. Students in Grinnell, Iowa, walk out of class in April.

March on NRA Headquarters Anchors Young Activists’ Latest National Day of Action

On Saturday, August 4, young gun reform activists plan to take over the street in front of the National Rifle Association’s headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia, to rally for new gun laws.

The March on the NRA has the support of national organizations including Women’s March and March for Our Lives, whose Road to Change bus tour will coincide with the event. Survivor-activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, are expected to attend the rally, which will include speakers and performances, art, and voter registration.

“This nationwide movement started with a group of student activists who are standing up for ourselves when politicians don’t even blink when there is a mass shooting,” Skye Wagoner, the march’s director of outreach, told The Trace. “We are demanding that our country puts lives over money and stops letting lobbyist groups like the NRA control whether we live or die.”

The event’s organizers say their ultimate policy goals include universal background checks, digitization of ATF files, funding for federal gun violence research, and bans on assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and downloadable gun blueprints. They are also asking the Internal Revenue Service to revoke the NRA’s nonprofit status.

In a hallmark of the evolving post-Parkland movement, the central protest at NRA headquarters has inspired a day of affiliated demonstrations in cities and towns stretching from Olympia, Washington, to Columbia, South Carolina.

The phenomenon of sister marches goes back at least half a century, according to David S. Meyer, a professor of sociology and political science at the University of California, Irvine. Social media has intensified their spread. “Being able to organize simultaneous events across the country means that the main event might be diminished,” he said, “but it also means it’s going to be more engaged overall.”

Organizers in at least 22 states have regional events in the works. We talked to a few of them about their particular plans and what motivated them to give up a summer weekend to advance their cause.

Chicago

Instead of a march, Chicago organizers are holding a die-in at City Hall. In addition to the national demands, they are asking for investment in the city’s South and West Sides.

Ava Uditsky, a rising high school junior, helped organize the event:

 “We understand that Chicago’s gun violence takes a form that isn’t necessarily the same as Fairfax’s.

We want to show up somewhere that is significant to the city and its government. We are reminding politicians who accept money from the NRA that we are still here, still watching, and will keep fighting until they stop accepting that money.

I got into gun reform activism about a year ago, and really dove into the movement after Parkland. I remember sitting in my room watching the news coverage and sobbing. It was over a thousand miles away but it felt so, so close to me.”

Los Angeles

The Southern California event will start with a rally at a local park. It will be followed by a 1.5-mile march to the California Rifle and Pistol Association (CRPA).

Jessie Parks, 16:

“We decided to march to CRPA because it’s essentially the NRA headquarters in California. We’ve brought the fight to those elected officials who put profit over people, now it’s time to bring the fight directly to the NRA.

I first realized gun violence was a huge epidemic back in 2012 when Trayvon Martin was fatally shot but I never thought my voice could bring change until I saw students all over America coming together and fighting for the same cause. I helped organize my school’s walk-out. Then during the National Die-in Day, I did a lone ‘die-in’ at Congressman Ken Calvert’s office. It was supposed to last just 12 minutes, but after his staff mocked me, I decided to stay until they closed. I was there for six hours.”

Olympia, Washington

The Rally on NRA Olympia is hosting a die-in, speeches, and a voter registration. The young activists behind it are asking that politicians refuse to accept money from the NRA.

Sophie Hulet, 16:

“I founded Eastside Students for Gun Reform in May. I met many other young people through activism on Twitter, some of whom are involved with the National March on the NRA team. I offered to plan a sister event in the state of Washington, and we’ve been working hard to make it happen ever since.”

San Antonio

San Antonio demonstrators will march to the offices of Senator John Cornyn and Representative Henry Cuellar, who they are asking to stop accepting money from the NRA. At the start and end of the march, they will have a rally and voter registration.

Rachel Walsdorf, 18:

“I was tired of seeing individuals who are supposed to represent us blatantly ignore our safety. Nothing was getting done to fix our country’s preventable gun violence epidemic.

We know that we have to bring a change to Texas gun culture, so showing our representatives and fellow Texans how much we care and are willing to demand change is an integral part of that.”

Iowa City, Iowa

The Iowa City event will begin at 2 p.m. with a rally at the Old Capitol Building, where voter registration will be available. Organizers hope to put pressure on the Iowa Gun Owners Association and the Iowa Firearms Coalition, in addition to the NRA.

Kevin Drahos, 18:

“I was really upset about the issue and started to notice how ignorant our lawmakers were being. I found out a few of my friends were also pretty upset, so we got together to discuss some ways to help. Since then, I have organized my school’s first ever walk-outs, written to lawmakers, hosted multiple town halls, and connected with March for Our Lives to create our regional chapter. There’s a lot more coming up after Saturday, starting with a die-in at the state Capitol later this month.”

New York City

New York City’s event will take the form of a voter registration and rally at James Cagney Plaza in Manhattan. Organizers are encouraging participants to wear orange and carry signs.

Daphne Frias, 20:

“I remember the day of Parkland, I kept thinking about my brother, who was in high school at the time, and about how my college is an open campus. But there was a part of me that wasn’t surprised. I hated that our country had conditioned me to expect this type of violence.

I come from a Hispanic community in New York. Minority communities tend to have higher percentages of gun violence so I want to represent that. I’m also disabled, so I want that community’s needs to be heard too.”

Columbia, South Carolina

Organizers are hosting a rally and voter registration push; they’ll also set up a photo booth where attendees can send electronic postcards to legislators. In addition to the national demands, organizers say they want to see laws that allow for civil liability for gun owners who fail to report theft, an unchecked source of crime weapons.

Katherine Auld, 18:

“My dad is from Canada, and they already have gun control in place. They still have gun violence, but it’s on a much lower level. Seeing the Stoneman Douglas students take a time of tragedy and use it to push forward a positive message was very eye-opening.”

Dallas

Dallas organizers are planning a march and rally, along with a voter registration drive. Like many of their counterparts, they want to pressure their state politicians to stop accepting money from the NRA.

Jacquelyn King, 14:

“When Parkland happened, it reminded me of how I felt during Sandy Hook. So I’ve always been interested in gun reform. But the Stoneman Douglas shooting was a wake-up call. They showed me it doesn’t matter how old I am, I can create change.”