By Thomas K. Pendergast
On Saturday, June 11, at high noon in front of San Francisco’s City Hall, local officials, students and westside residents joined hundreds of people gathered to demand that something be done about gun violence.
Nationwide, media reports estimated that tens of thousands protested in hundreds of cities across America that day, demanding Congress take action for stricter gun laws. The protesters especially focused on AR-15-style semi-automatic rifles which were used at recent mass shootings at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York that killed 10 people, and another at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas that killed 19 children and two teachers.
These horrific slayings inspired the resurrection of March For Our Lives, a march on Washington DC which first happened in 2018, after a mass shooting killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
At March For Our Lives 2022, San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education President Jenny Lam and Kelly Groth, a legislative aide representing District 1 Supervisor Connie Chan, joined SF Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton to stand with activists at a rally organized by students at Lowell High School.
“There continues to be so much heartache, loss and grief,” Lam said. “Guns and firearms are now the leading cause of death for our children in the United States. We know that gun violence has lasting trauma for years and generations; not only the individuals directly affected, but families, neighbors, classmates and communities.
“As a mom of two children and leading a school district of 49,000 students, every day I think ‘how am I going to keep our students and our children safe?’ And I take the responsibility of keeping them safe, healthy and thriving to heart,” she said.
“We know it’s preventable; We don’t have to continue this way, and there are clear solutions. Some of those include background checks for gun buyers and permits required to purchase guns. The same type of regulations that we have in order to get a driver’s license should be applied (for) responsible gun ownership.”
Groth said: “It’s upsetting that we have to be here again, time after time, shooting after shooting, decade after decade. Everyone has the right to feel safe in their schools, their place of worship or the grocery store without being shot because politicians like Mitch McConnell prioritize donations from the NRA over human lives. And that has got to change.”
“We have had to have this conversation too many times,” Walton said. “Whether it be mass shootings, whether it be the killings that are happening in our inner cities on a consistent basis, there’s no excuse for what we have in this country when it comes to guns. The access to guns is criminal.
“We have to hold the (U.S.) Senate, we have to hold the House of Representatives responsible for making gun laws that are not going to lead to these mass shootings that we continue to have in our communities,” he said. “We’re going to continue to work and commit, on the Board of Supervisors, to do everything we can to prevent guns from getting in the hands of folks who are irresponsible. But we have to fight at the state level; we have to fight at the federal level because that’s where we’re missing the mark.”
The marches coincide with another push in Congress for gun control, adding even more pressure to act after the recent mass shootings, and at least 10 Republicans need to vote with Democrats to clear the 60-vote threshold for breaking a filibuster and passing legislation.
Despite widespread GOP opposition, Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, the lead Democrat in the bipartisan negotiations, told CNN he believes there will be more than 10 Republicans supporting gun safety measures in the Senate to overcome a filibuster.
CBS News reports that last week, the Democratic-led House passed legislation to tighten the nation’s gun laws, including: raising the minimum age to purchase a semi-automatic weapon to 21; a ban on high-capacity magazines; and a “red flag” law allowing courts to confiscate weapons from those deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.
The “Protecting Our Kids Act” is a package of eight bills Congress passed mainly along party lines 223-204, with five Republicans joining all but two Democrats.
March For Our Lives 2022 protests were also held in Atlanta, Georgia; Boston, Massachusetts; Brooklyn, New York; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Charlotte, North Carolina; Chicago, Illinois; Cincinnati, Ohio; Detroit, Michigan; Los Angeles, California; Louisville, Kentucky; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Nashville, Tennessee; Orlando, Florida; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Portland, Maine; Phoenix, Arizona; Providence, Rhode Island; St. Louis, Missouri; and Salt Lake City, Utah, among other cities.
After the latest mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, President Joe Biden addressed the nation in a televised speech.
“As a nation, we have to ask: When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? When in God’s name will we do what we all know in our gut needs to be done?” Biden said. “It’s been 3,448 days, 10 years since I stood up at a grade school in Connecticut, where another gunman massacred 26 people, including 20 first graders, at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“Since then, there have been over 900 incidents of gunfire reported on school grounds,” he said. “Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida; Santa Fe High School in Texas; Oxford High School in Michigan … the list goes on and on. And the list grows when it includes mass shootings at places like movie theaters, houses of worship, and, as we saw just 10 days ago, at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York.
“I am sick and tired of it. We have to act. And don’t tell me we can’t have an impact on this carnage.”
But some think the problem cannot be fixed merely with legislation. Solutions must also include changing America’s deeply rooted gun culture of violence.
“Safety has to be about more than just legislation,” said Tinisch Hollins, executive director of Californians For Safety And Justice, as she stood in front of City Hall. “It definitely has to be about more than hopes and prayers.
“It has to be about shifting culture. It has to be about changing this thinking and mentality that the only way you can express emotion is through violence,” she said. “This country was founded on it. This country was founded on power and control by violence, resources by violence, religion by violence, control your bodies by violence. It’s up to us to shift that culture.
“How do we shift that culture? We fight. We vote. But you start with the heart. And I know that’s not a sexy conversation right now because we’re all pissed. I know that’s not a sexy conversation right now because that does nothing for these grieving families. So, let’s expand this conversation about safety to more than just laws and policies. Let’s bring back what it means to value each other’s lives.”
For a video of the protest, click HERE. Produced by Thomas K. Pendergast.