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After Parkland Shooting, Gun Control Rally Draws 400 in F.C.

HUNDREDS GATHERED MONDAY at George Mason High School in Falls Church for a candlelight vigil to remember the victims and those affected by the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. last week. (Photo: J. Michael Whalen)

A candlelight vigil organized by the Falls Church-McLean chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America Monday night saw hundreds of parents, students and local dignitaries turn out on short notice at George Mason High School in Falls Church to remember the 17 victims of the Parkland, Florida high school shooting last week, and to demand reasonable gun control laws. The event drew major coverage from regional TV and other media outlets.

Speakers at the event included the daughter of a victim of gun violence in Alexandria, a survivor from the Columbine shooting in Colorado in 1999, U.S. Rep. Don Beyer, Falls Church City Public Schools superintendent Peter Noonan, a representative from the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center and members of the Moms Demand Action group.

The event concluded with a candlelit vigil with participants promising not to forget the names of last week’s shooting victims and a renewed urgency for passing gun legislation that included the outlawing of assault weapons, stronger background checks and greater awareness of mental health issues.

Organizers from Moms Demand Action said that they’d prepared 400 candles for the event, and they were all used. The crowd spilled over from the school’s cafeteria into the adjacent outdoor area.

Rep. Beyer’s comments included the following:

“Change is only driven by the people who show up. And we must, must deal with the prevalence of gun violence in this country.

“Let me give you some statistics. In 2016, more than 39,000 Americans were killed by guns: 96 Americans a day, 7 of them children. Every month, 50 women are killed by their husbands or their boyfriends. And last year, more than 23,000 Americans took their own life with a gun.

“Do the math. Each one of us is expected to live at least 80 years, right? That means three million Americans will die by gun in our lifetimes. That’s five times all the combat deaths in every U.S. war put together. That’s more than the population of 19 different states.

“Yet, we know what do. We keep hearing this is an impossible, unsolvable problem. I lived in Switzerland for four years. The rest of the world has this figured out, Germany, UK, France, Switzerland, etc.

“Thoughts and prayers are meaningless. The passive acceptance of gun death is wrong, it is sinful, and it is express complicity in these senseless deaths.

“The people in charge think they can just wait this out and not have to do anything. When the NRA talks about guns, they talk about freedom. Well, let’s push back. What about the freedom to go to school without having to worry? When the NRA talks about guns, they talk about the sacred Second Amendment. Well, I thought one of the parents in Parkland put it best. He said, ‘What makes the Second Amendment more sacred than the life of my child?’”

Among the comments reported from students of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in recent days included the following:

“If all our government and president can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it’s time for victims to be the change we need to be (Emma Gonzales);”
“We’ve sat around too long being inactive in our political climate, and as a result, children have died (David Hogg);”

“We’re what’s making the change. We’re going to talk to these politicians tomorrow. We’re going to talk to them the day after that. We’re going to keep talking, we’re going to keep pushing until something is done because people are dying and this can’t happen anymore (Alfonzo Calderon);”

“This has to be the last school this happens to (Jaclyn Corin);”

“This could have all been prevented if people were doing their jobs. And the fact that us children have to start acting like the adults and start doing the jobs of the adults, it’s really sad that we have to take action when these people have studied all their life to do a job that they’re not doing (Melissa Camilo);”

“The one fear we have is that nothing will change (Anthony Lopez);”

“We have stuff to say, and we won’t be silenced after a matter of days, or even weeks (Sarah Chadwick).”