SUNRISE – As Florida State Senator Shevrin Jones stood on stage at Sunrise, reading aloud the names of 31 victims shot dead May 14 at a supermarket in Buffalo, NY, and last Tuesday at a school elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, he broke down in tears. He blamed the influence of gun lobbies. He blamed “ineffective leaders”. He blamed the uniquely American phenomenon that “10 people can be killed in broad daylight with an assault rifle.”
About 15 local and state lawmakers who stood on stage with him patted his shoulders and bowed their heads. Some 200 volunteers and participants standing on the green of the amphitheater did the same.
“I’m confident,” State Senator Jones said, “that we’re going to organize them and weed them out, so that no more children will be raised in a society where gun violence exists.”
In the wake of the Uvalde and Buffalo mass shootings, state lawmakers like Senator Jones and several Democratic groups held a vigil and gun control rally Saturday morning at the Sunrise Amphitheater, delivering speeches loaded with raw anger and grief but also tempered with optimism.
The event was co-hosted by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, began in the aftermath of the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where 28 people were killed. They were joined by their sister organization, Students Demand Action, as well as Broward Young Democrats, Ruth’s List Broward, the Broward Democratic Hispanic Caucus, Broward for Progress and Change The Ref.
The rally called on state and federal lawmakers to pass so-called “meaning guns” legislation, and 10 speakers’ talking points ranged from universal background checks to banning guns. assault through raising Florida’s minimum gun ownership age from 18 to 21.
Charlie Crist, a Florida gubernatorial candidate running in the Democratic primary, sat on the steps of the amphitheater with volunteers from Moms Demand Action, but did not speak on the podium. (His gubernatorial rivals, Nikki Fried and Annette Taddeo, did not appear.)
“This is such garbage. We have to stop this,” Crist told the Sun Sentinel, calling for an assault weapons ban and expanded background checks on new gun owners. He also defied recent calls by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to sign a “constitutional” gun law before leaving the governor’s office.
“It’s a moment of inflection,” says Crist. “There is something different about what happened in Texas. I don’t know what it is, but it gives courage to governors and legislators to finally do the right things.
In a speech peppered with fury and F-bombs, Change the Ref co-founder Manuel Oliver said criticism of officers’ handling of Tuesday’s mass shooting in Uvalde ‘directs’ the biggest problem : firearms legislation.
“I say, kids, don’t go back to school,” says Oliver, the father of a 17-year-old Parkland shooting victim, continuing to curse American senses Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio in Spanish. “Don’t just go out. Why not leave? Children should no longer go to school until they are 100% safe in this space. What do you mean, you’re just a fucking mayor and you can’t do anything? I’m just f—-ing father! So do something with the soul of your heart.
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As he spoke, members of the public shouted “Vote them! Vote them! and held up signs that read “Protect Children, Not Guns.” A Sunrise kindergarten teacher carried a sign that read, “I came to teach, not join a war zone.
Other speakers included Broward School Board member Debbi Hixon, whose husband, Chris Hixon, was among 17 students and staff murdered by a school shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018. .
“I’m frustrated, angry and heartbroken,” she said. “It’s good that we are protesting, but we have to demand that something be done. People believe in red flag laws. So make people who believe in universal background checks shake their ass and vote! »
Another speaker, Florida State Senator Lauren Book, played a key role in shaping school safety legislation following the Parkland shooting. One of them: Alyssa’s Law, named after Parkland shooting victim Alyssa Alhadeff, now mandates the installation of mobile panic buttons on teachers’ and staff’s cellphones to alert the police in case of emergency. Another, Jaime’s Law, in honor of Jaime Guttenberg, would require background checks on ammunition buyers, but it has stalled in the state legislature.
“We are working on all possible means to target gun violence, because it is not OK. We stand in the blood of children,” she says. “I’m the biggest cynic out there, but it’s working, slowly, to advance policies to keep families safe.
Other speakers included State Representative (and former Parkland Mayor) Christine Hunschofsky, Sunrise Mayor Mike Ryan and Alyssa Gonzalez, a 23-year-old volunteer for Students Demand Action.
The event was just one of several planned gun control rallies sparked in the wake of the Buffalo and Uvalde mass shootings. On Thursday, March for Our Lives organizers added more protests: Starting Saturday, 11 events are planned across Florida, including Parkland, Coral Gables and Orlando, along with more than 200 rallies planned nationwide. .