WASHINGTON – Gun control advocate and former astronaut Mark Kelly, the husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), told PJM that the student activists at the March for Our Lives need to follow through on their actions by trying to “compel” other young people to vote in the midterm elections.
“Well, obviously, the kids have to compel other kids like them to register to vote and then to actually show up on Election Day – that’s important and that’s really, I mean, this is great and it’s a moment and maybe a movement, but they need to follow it up with voting,” Kelly, co-founder of Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS), said during an interview at the March for Our Lives on Saturday.
Kelly was asked if there is a necessary policy change that he thinks could have prevented gunman Nikolas Cruz from carrying out the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.
“I mean, there’s a couple things, but one thing is if a 19-year-old couldn’t buy an AR-15 that would’ve had an impact on that event,” he replied.
Sarah, a student from Baltimore, told PJM she participated in the march to set an example for her sisters.
“I’m actually in school in Baltimore, but I came down here to show my sisters that you have this First Amendment right to free speech and when you see something is going wrong it’s very important to stand up and speak out for what you believe in,” she said.
Laura, who traveled from Norfolk, Va., to attend the march, said she remains “worried” that the NRA holds greater weight with certain members of Congress than children’s lives.
“I think it’s time Congress starts listening to people and especially children. Every 60 hours there’s gun violence in schools, and it’s been going on for too long. And I’m worried that the NRA means more to certain representatives than our children do, at this point,” she said. “So we all came out together and I saw all kinds of people here and there was one veteran, a Vietnam veteran that really got me today, he had a sweatshirt on and it said ‘Vietnam veteran’ and he had a sign that said ‘you don’t march alone’ – and, you know, they’re not alone anymore.”
Yolisa, a student from Brooklyn, N.Y., was asked what she wants to happen as a result of the march.
“I just want all of this to really make a difference because we shouldn’t have to fear to go to school every day, that we’re going to get shot and that, like, we’re trying to learn and it sucks that we always have to worry about an intruder trying to kill us every day – that’s not what my mother sent me to school for,” she said. “She sent me to get an education and to come home, not to worry about lockdowns.”
Emma Gutierrez from Miami wants to see “some type of ban on the automatic weapons.”
“I mean, the ultimate goal is to ban the automatic weapons, the sale of them, because, like we were saying on this march, we shouldn’t have weapons of war in the streets, we shouldn’t have that available to civilians,” she said. “Ultimately, it’s not about getting rid of guns. It’s just about having some, I would say, more background checks or just regulations.”
This week, the only resource officer at Maryland’s Great Mills High School was credited with preventing more deaths after he confronted a shooter who shot two students on the school grounds, killing one.
Gutierrez was asked if she agrees with lawmakers who have suggested arming more trained administrators and/or teachers as a way to protect students.
“I think we should leave that to our law enforcement,” Gutierrez said. “I personally don’t think it would be a good idea to arm teachers, just because we should focus on educating children.”
Amanice, a student from New York City, shared the same view as Gutierrez.
“I do not agree with that only because teachers are not there to be the person that’s supposed to be like, oh, if something happens I’m going to take out my arm and help,” she said. “They are technically a protector, too, but not in that sense. That’s what we have security for – that’s their job.”