Oh, sure, you’ll hear plenty, for days and days, about all the passionate people who were present at the March for Our Lives events on Saturday — from Boston to Denver, from Atlanta to L.A., and from Washington, D.C., to Seattle and many points in between.
But you almost certainly won’t hear from the mainstream media about the people who showed up in the nation’s capital on March 24, 2018, to talk about the rights guaranteed them and all Americans by the Second Amendment.
No one wants gun violence against another individual to occur. Violent and criminal acts are absolutely abhorrent — and we must do more in this country to solve urgent mental health issues.
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But neither do supporters of the Second Amendment want firearms unceremoniously taken away from them in some sort of massive gun grab after tragedies and shootings.
Thousands of young people on Saturday, accompanied by their peers, parents, siblings and friends, gathered just blocks away from the Capitol in Washington, D.C., to honor the 17 students and faculty members who were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last month — and LifeZette was there.
Carrying banners and signs and donning stickers, caution tape and pins, marchers such as Cierra, 20, and her sister, Jordan, 15, joined the others in D.C. led by #NeverAgain, a group of students who survived the February 14 shooting in Parkland, Florida, with support from the gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety.
For Cierra (who wanted her last name withheld), the march’s message hit close to home. “I had a school shooting,” she told LifeZette. “I was involved with one.”
She was a sophomore in high school when 15-year-old Robert Gladden Jr. opened fire in the lunchroom of Perry Hall High School in Baltimore County, Maryland, on the first day of school in 2012. (Gladden later pled guilty to attempted murder; in 2013 he was sentenced to 35 years in prison.)
“It was very scary … A lot of my friends were absolutely scared. Some people were trampled.”
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Because of her experience, Cierra encouraged her sister to take part in Saturday’s march with her. “I really wanted her to come [with me], because I feel like this is her movement. This is for her.”
While the sisters said they were uncertain how to prevent future gun violence, they said providing a platform for young people to become politically active and educated is a good place to start.
“I feel like this is very rare,” said Cierra. “For the youth of our nation to be using their voices so loudly and organizing this — it’s so impactful.”
Among the students and families in Saturday’s crowd in D.C. were hundreds of teachers, many of whom were advocating for additional protections for students. Jamie Sullins, a kindergarten teacher from Florida, was staying at the Trump International Hotel with her family when she heard about the march.
Emboldened by her love for her students, Sullins (shown at the top of this article, in the center) borrowed a wipe-off board to use as a makeshift sign and bundled up to stand outside on the cold March day and make her voice heard.
“I definitely think it’s devastating — school shootings and these things happening,” Sullins told LifeZette. “It’s definitely scary for the kids who are in school now to have to deal with those things.”
That said, Sullins is a gun owner — and she argued that the solution to gun violence is not to take firearms away from licensed owners.
“Taking [guns] away from the people who are not out to hurt people gets in the way of being able to protect,” she said.
Sullins said the recent shooting at Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County, Maryland — during which an armed school resource officer responded within one minute and stopped gunman Austin Wyatt Rollins, 17, from wreaking further havoc — showed that removing guns from the equation could result in more casualties. (Rollins died in the shootout, though it was unclear early on if he died from the officer’s bullet or from a self-inflicted gunshot. The ex-girlfriend he shot was removed from life support on Thursday and died that evening; she was 16. A 14-year-old boy was also wounded.)
When asked about President Donald Trump’s suggestion that training and arming educators could be a practical step to fortify schools against mass shootings, Sullins suggested leaving the choice up to individual teachers.
“I am not opposed to [carrying] a gun myself as a teacher and to have that in my classroom as extra defense,” she said. She added, though, that “there are a lot of teachers who are anti-gun and who are afraid of guns. And I would never say, ‘Force them to be armed.’ You don’t want someone who is afraid of a gun to have to have a gun.”
The additional measures in many schools right now for security reasons means many teachers are required to keep classroom doors closed and even locked during the day when classes are in session.
What you won’t see from CNN or MSNBC. But as thousands of participants marched up Pennsylvania Avenue, others stationed themselves outside the Trump International Hotel to champion the Second Amendment.
For Army veteran Brandon Howard of Hopewell, Virginia, a belief in the importance of upholding the United States Constitution drew him to Washington, D.C., for the Saturday event.
“It’s really simple,” said Howard (shown above, far right, at the top of this article). “I have been on battlefields, I have fought, and I have had my friends perish to protect the Constitution. Every one of us [held up] our hand and swore, not just for the time we were in the military but for our entire life, to uphold the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic.”
“I don’t think that restricting the rights of law-abiding gun owners is the way to fix that.”
Howard is chairman of the Republican Party for the City of Hopewell and helped to found Open Carry Richmond. He served in the United States Army for nine years. His military service, he said, has been a defining factor in his defense of the Second Amendment.
“Any assault on the Constitution to take away the rights of its citizens is a domestic assault and threat to the Constitution, which I must defend,” he said. “I gave that oath to this nation. I wrote that blank check.”
For Colin Valentine, a native of Pennsylvania who today works in D.C., a lifelong and positive relationship with firearms inspired him to share his experience with those marchers who may have been less educated on what gun ownership looks like.
“My father had been a gun owner for a long time, and I got into hunting at a young age,” Valentine told LifeZette. He first began using a gun at about age 11, he said. For him, it’s important that gun owners and gun control advocates create a space to have conversations about firearm safety.
“We certainly need a dialogue. I mean, they [most of the marchers] are not wrong — we do have a problem with gun violence in this country,” he said. “But I don’t think that restricting the rights of law-abiding gun owners is the way to fix that.”
Valentine has also used his experience with gun ownership to have conversations with friends who may not see eye to eye with him politically.
“Most of my friends are liberal and don’t support the Second Amendment,” he said. “[But] I think that there is common ground to be had on prosecuting gun crime more strictly.”
Another pro-gun individual standing outside the Trump International Hotel — who gave his name only as Joe (shown at the top of this article, far left) — said he was originally from upstate New York. He echoed Valentine’s statements about finding common ground, but said that injecting logic into the gun control debate was critical to both sides in terms of seeing the issue more clearly.
“I feel like [the marchers] aren’t thinking logically here. They’re just thinking with emotions,” he said. “This thing [the Parkland shooting] was a tragedy. I mean, it was sad — it was just not cool. But I feel like they’re looking at the emotions to try to overblow the impact [of gun violence].”
This article has been updated.