Signs and people in the thousands, many of them young and many from Eastern Jackson County, were added to the national March For Our Lives conversation over the weekend.
Rachel Gonzalez was one of the organizers.
“It started with a group of adults on the Kansas side that provided us with a place to meet,” said Gonzalez, 19, a William Chrisman graduate and now a student at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph. Two years ago, she was the youngest Hillary Clinton delegate at the Democratic National Convention, and she has remained politically active.
“We then put out the word on Facebook and Twitter to meet at the Plaza Library twice a week, every week, for the past few weeks,” she said. “This was really powered by students. We had some help from adults managing the money and getting a permit to hold this at this park (Theis Park, across from the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City), but other than that, the planning was done by students.”
Saturday’s gathering was one of hundreds across the country – including those held in Lee’s Summit, Warrensburg and Springfield – in addition to the main rally that drew hundreds of thousands in Washington, D.C. The events were in response to the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed.
Gonzalez spoke at Saturday’s event, saying the United States must control the epidemic of gun violence before there are more outbreaks. Then she said, “that this event shows us that a cure is coming.”
So what sort of cure?
“We want comprehensive background checks to make sure that domestic abusers can’t get their hands on guns – make sure there are mental health screenings, and have gun training for every individual that wants a gun,” Gonzalez said.
“We don’t want our teachers to have guns, also,” she added. “I know the Republican Party wants to have armed teachers. We are a little confused because we don’t understand how they have money to arm teachers, to train our teachers and give them bonuses for carrying guns, but they don’t have money to make sure we have school supplies and make sure we have books.”
Tedi Rowland of Independence offered similar thoughts.
“I think we need reasonable gun regulation in this country,” she said. “After Sandy Hook (the elementary school where 26 people were killed in 2012), I was shocked that nothing happened. For this to happen today, I felt like I needed to be a part of it.”
As did Independence resident Sue McGlocklin, who said she was there to support the cause while having her children and grandchildren in mind.
“I don’t want them to feel unsafe at school,” McGlocklin said. “I believe a big problem is the easy availability of automatic weapons. I am here in support of common sense and gun control. We need changes in our legislation so we can be safe.
“We want the kids to know that even though we are old, that we stand with them.”