Thousands Converge on Washington Mall to Demand New Gun Laws
Senators reach agreement on bipartisan gun safety ‘framework’
WASHINGTON — Thousands rallied under a mostly overcast sky on the National Mall on Saturday to demand Congress pass new gun control measures after a recent rash of deadly mass shootings.
The peaceful protest in Washington was just one of hundreds of such gatherings across the United States in the wake of a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and a deadly White supremacist attack on a supermarket in Buffalo, New York.
Ten people, all of whom were Black, were killed in the mass shooting in Buffalo, on May 14, in an attack authorities are calling a “racially motivated hate crime.”
Nineteen children and two teachers were killed 10 days later at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.
“Enough is enough,” said District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser from a stage set up within sight of the White House.
“I speak as a mayor, a mom, and I speak for millions of Americans and America’s mayors who are demanding that Congress do its job. And its job is to protect us, to protect our children from gun violence,” she said.
She was one of several speakers who called on the U.S. Senate, where new gun laws face stiff Republican opposition, to either pass new restrictions on the purchasing of guns or face being voted out of office come November.
“If our government can’t do anything to stop 19 kids from being killed … slaughtered in their own school, and decapitated, it’s time to change who is in government,” said David Hogg, a survivor of the mass shooting Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that left 17 dead in 2018.
Hogg is also a co-founder of March For Our Lives, which organized Saturday’s event.
President Joe Biden, who was in California when the Washington rally got underway, urged the participants there and across the country to “keep marching.”
“It’s important. Look, this has to become an election issue,” he said. “The way people say ‘this isn’t going to affect my vote,’… too many people are dying, needlessly.”
“What’s being proposed in the House and Senate is marginal. It’s important, but it’s not all that needs to be done… the answer is march,” he said.
Biden recently delivered an impassioned prime-time address to the nation in which he called for several steps, including raising the age limit for buying assault-style weapons. Since then, the House has passed some gun-control measures, but the Senate has not yet taken them up.
However, on Sunday morning came word that a group of Senators had reached agreement on a bipartisan gun safety framework that could be a breakthrough in addressing the recent back-to-back mass shootings.
According to a report in Politico, the package is anchored around extra scrutiny for gun buyers under the age of 21, grants to states to enact so-called red flag laws and new spending on mental health treatment and school security.
As word of the deal spread, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. released a statement in which he said the announcement of a bipartisan gun-safety framework “is a good first step to ending the persistent inaction to the gun violence epidemic that has plagued our country and terrorized our children for far too long.”
“Once the text of this agreement is finalized, I will put this bill on the floor as soon as possible so the Senate can act quickly to advance gun-safety legislation,” he said.
Acknowledging Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Thom Tillis, R-N.C., for their key roles in reaching the agreement, Schumer said, “This important legislation will limit the ability of potential mass shooters to quickly obtain assault rifles by establishing an enhanced background check process for gun purchasers under age 21, invest in the adoption and expansion of state red flag laws, close the boyfriend loophole, establish federal penalties for gun traffickers, and fund critical support services to help address our nation’s mental health crisis.
“After an unrelenting wave of gun-related suicides and homicides, including mass shootings, the Senate is poised to act on commonsense reforms to protect Americans where they live, where they shop, and where they learn. We must move swiftly to advance this legislation because if a single life can be saved it is worth the effort,” he said.
Biden also commented, releasing a statement Sunday that said, “Obviously, it does not do everything that I think is needed, but it reflects important steps in the right direction, and would be the most significant gun safety legislation to pass Congress in decades.
“With bipartisan support, there are no excuses for delay, and no reason why it should not quickly move through the Senate and the House. Each day that passes, more children are killed in this country: the sooner it comes to my desk, the sooner I can sign it, and the sooner we can use these measures to save lives,” the president added.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., also expressed his support for the bipartisan effort.
“I am glad Sens. Cornyn and Murphy are continuing to make headway in their discussions. I appreciate their hard work on this important issue,” McConnell said in a statement.
“The principles they announced today show the value of dialogue and cooperation,” he said. “I continue to hope their discussions yield a bipartisan product that makes significant headway on key issues like mental health and school safety, respects the Second Amendment, earns broad support in the Senate, and makes a difference for our country.”
Estimates vary on how many people showed up on the National Mall on Saturday.
Organizers hoped the second March for Our Lives rally to be held in the capital would draw as many as 50,000 people to the Washington Monument; police estimate the crowd was closer to about 35,000.
Photos by Madeline Hughes.
Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.
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