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Wednesday, April 4, 2018 12:15 am

Marching with the kids for gun law reform

Seeing groups of high school students at Midway Airport on March 23 gave me a feeling that the March for Our Lives event the next day in Washington, D.C., would be big. Indeed, as I took the Metro train to the event, I soon found myself with thousands of others making our way to the march. As I walked out of the station, volunteers pointed us toward Pennsylvania Avenue where the March and event would be taking place.

It’s unfortunate that student survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting massacre had to put this event together to have their voices heard on gun violence. I arrived two hours before the event starting time, on Pennsylvania Avenue right in front of the Trump International Hotel. The crowds were growing quite large and gun signs of all varieties were seen by the hundreds. Large screens were placed along the route so spectators could see the students and singers on stage.

Walking along with the crowd I finally got within two blocks of the stage. The masses of humanity of every age and race was at a standstill; we were like sardines in a can. I parked myself on the curb across from the Newseum Museum, and waited over an hour and a half for the opening ceremonies. A large banner was draped on the front of the museum with the words: “The Newseum Celebrates Our First Amendment Freedoms.” Seeing the thousands of people crammed in on the streets, I thought to myself that they all were here to assert their First Amendment rights. It was estimated that more than 800,000 were in Washington to take part in this march. Other marches took place that day in every state and in cities around the world.

The event started with a song by the singer Andra Day along with the Baltimore Children’s Choir. As soon as the song started, participants lowered their signs and everyone stood silently and viewed the large screens, listening to the singers, speakers and news clips that would be shown for the next three hours.

All the speakers were students from around the country who witnessed or were exposed to gun violence either at their schools, their homes or on the streets. Students from Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and, of course, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School survivors, all shared many stories of gun violence for the world to hear.

There were many inspiring and sad stories, beautiful songs to follow along, and even a powerful six minutes on stage by Emma Gonzalez, much of it in silence, expressing the time it took to kill her classmates and teachers.

The students were educated, energetic and savvy on the issue. Some of thesm could one day be our new leaders. Will the students and this event bring change and new gun laws? They have had an effect in Florida already when a few new gun bills were signed recently. Will they influence Congress? With today’s political climate and outside interests lobbying and influencing Congress, that is probably unlikely – at least for now.
Congressional elections will be taking place around the country this fall. Changes to  the membership of Congress could make the students quite happy. That could lead to changes in law and policy one day.

Walt Zyznieuski of Springfield is a retired freelance author and photographer. Walt has dusted off his sneakers and has participated in two large marches in Washington in the past year.

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