On Saturday hundreds gathered in Stamford’s Mill River Park for a March for Our Lives rally. About a dozen high school students spoke, along with Stamford Mayor David Martin, State Representatives Carlo Leone and Caroline Simmons.
Led by students from Stamford high schools, the event was organized by groups including Moms Demand Action, Everytown Survivor Network, Women on Watch, Connecticut Against Gun Violence and the Stamford based ENOUGH Campaign are partnering with the Student Union for Political Expression and Representation (SUPER).
The March For Our Lives movement was created after the the Valentine’s Day mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida when a former student shot and killed 17 people, mostly teenagers.
One of the organizers, Kim Anderson, said in 2000 she attended the Million Moms March in DC where she learned gun violence was impacting families across the country in unimaginable and painful ways.
“We asked our lawmakers for sensible form. The upshot was that we were ignored. A million moms gathered in the nations’ capital and we were ignored. The problem of gun violence has gotten worse,” Anderson said. “I’m here to support the students in their movement. I am determined that their voices will not be ignored.”
Kristin O’Neill , a former English teacher at Westhill High School, and local leader of the newly formed Moms Demand Action in Stamford, said she started planning a meeting in Stamford at the end of January, hoping to have a dozen people gather in a local coffee shop. After Parkland, the response was overwhelming and she and Ms Anderson found a larger space to accommodate 85 people.
She said at that meeting, just 13 days earlier, the idea was born for the Saturday’s march in Stamford.
O’Neill said gun violence happens disproportionately in African-American and minority communities and that on average 23 children under 18 are shot in the US every day. She said the US gun homicide rate is 25% higher than any other developed nation.
“It is a uniquely American problem,” she said. “It’s gone on far too long and shame on us adults for not fixing it for our children.”
Alyssa Goldberg, a junior at Westhill High School who was in 6th grade on the day of the Sandy Hook shooting, said she developed irrational fears of leaving class for the bathroom, wondering whether the fire alarm was a drill or trap, and determining which room she would feel safest in during a shooting.
“Now these fears don’t seem so irrational,” Goldberg said. “I now share these concerns with millions of students, and the unspeakable question: Am I next?”
“These tragedies cannot become the new normal,” Goldberg said. “Today we are saying never again. Never again will we allow someone flagged by local police and the FBI to obtain the AR-15 style rifle used in the attack on Stoneman Douglas High School. Never again will we allow another firearm to fall into the hands of a domestic abuser. Never again will we allow a gun to be accessible to someone contemplating suicide.”
Goldberg said students must demand Congress implement mandated universal background checks, fund federal gun violence research, and ban bump stocks and AR-15 style weapons.