CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Shouts could be heard across the country Sunday during national ‘March for our Lives’ rallies that came on the same day lawmakers announced bipartisan gun safety legislation that includes mental health resources, scrutiny for gun buyers younger than 21 and allows states to implement red flag laws.
Two of those rallies happened in Uptown Charlotte and Salisbury. Hundreds denounced simple ‘thoughts and prayers’ and demanded change.
“We’ve had enough,” said Laura Bahmanya, a member of the group Moms Demand Action. “No more thoughts and prayers. We need action now.”
“I’m here to advocate for my future and my fellow classmates and to say that I don’t want to spend my time worrying about guns when I should be worried about planning my future,” 14-year-old Sophia Smith said.
The nationwide rallies were organized by students in the wake of more than 260 mass shootings so far this year (according to GunViolenceArchive.org), including ones that killed 21 students and teachers in Uvalde, Texas, and 10 black people at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York.
Some of the marchers were elementary and middle-school students.
“You don’t think it’s going to happen to you until on the intercom they’re saying we’re going into lockdown,” 14-year-old Toni Louis said.
Hundreds showed up at Sunday’s rally at First Ward Park to make their voices heard. Among them was Charlotte City Councilman Malcolm Graham, whose sister was killed in the 2015 shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
“What is right is making sure the Second Amendment is not absolute,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you can have an AK-47, where you can kill over 21 folks in Texas. It doesn’t mean you can go to a grocery store and gun down 12 African Americans in Buffalo, or go into a church and kill my sister, Cynthia Graham Hurd, who was at bible study.”
In Salisbury, protesters in front of the Rowan County Government Center asked legislators for what they called ‘sensible gun legislation.’
“I keep always hearing, ‘I need an assault rifle for home protection or for hunting,’ retired teacher David Clark said. “And what I said in front of the crowd is that my grandfathers and my uncles were avid hunters. They never had to go into the field with an assault rifle to go after a duck or a deer.”
Several state politicians also attended the local rallies, including Rep. Alma Adams and Sen. Jeff Jackson.
“I am all for folks who want to make a better emphasis on mental health care and get more school psychologists, get more counselors,” Jackson said. “We’re all for that. That can’t be the entire conversation. At some point, you simply have to confront the fact that guns play an enormous role in school shootings.”
March For Our Lives began in 2018 after 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.