Ray Frederick shared a story as he walked toward the Nevada State Capitol in Carson City on a chilly Saturday morning. “My nephew was shot at Gilroy High School in the late 1980’s. These school shootings have been going on for a long time. They never could get the bullet out. It’s still lodged in his spine.”
Frederick and his wife Genevieve were among more than 300 people who marched, carried signs and spoke at the capitol steps in a rally to support common sense gun legislation. It was one of more than 800 March for Our Lives demonstrations held across the globe and in each of the 50 United States.
“I have three grandchildren in school and they are fearful,” Genevieve Frederick said. “There was a school lockdown just days after the Florida shootings.”
Fourteen students and three educators were shot to death on Feb. 14 by a former student with an assault rifle at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. Summoned to action by student survivors of the Florida shooting, hundreds of thousands of teenagers and their supporters rallied in the nation’s capital and cities across America on Saturday to press for gun control in one of the biggest youth protests since the Vietnam era.
Many of the students who spoke at the Carson City rally had participated in and organized class walkouts on March 14. As people addressed the audience, motorists passing by occasionally shouted disparaging remarks.
Dayton High School junior Jake Carr said, “A lot of people in Dayton are against this, but I really don’t care.”
While Carr was defiant many more were emotional.
“I am a senior student from Las Vegas and my city was the place of the worst mass shooting in the history of the United States,” said Eriche Gonzales, 18, before she broke into tears. “Prayers are good, we like them. But we need more than just praying. We need action. We need to keep fighting for what we believe in.”
Carson High student Megan Owens said, “This is what we want to do. We’re not here because some older person told us this is how you fight for your rights.”
Her classmate Jane Fliegler added, “Maybe I am only 16 years old but I will be able to vote in two years and I will vote for gun reform legislation.”
Politics was a common topic.
Organizer George McKinnon said he is a lifelong Republican who just switched parties.
“Nevada has some of the loosest gun laws in the nation,” McKinnon said. “I am calling for background checks and a ban on bump stocks. And we will introduce gun legislation as soon as we vote the Republicans out.”
Sarah Adler of Indian Hills said she has organized a door-to-door campaign. “We are going to knock on doors and listen to people and we will register voters.”
Speaker Curtis Cannon observed, “This is what America looks like.” Afterward, he said he lives in Nevada State District 17, which is represented by longtime Republican incumbent James Settelmeyer. “He was running unopposed,” Cannon said before grinning, “until last week.” Cannon will face Settelmeyer in the upcoming election.
Carson High teacher Shelly Bale gave a concise lesson: “Language is Power. Don’t forget that.”
A little girl named Sydney approached the podium. Rick Shepherd, one of six Democratic candidates for the 2nd Congressional District, lifted her up so she could speak into the microphone.
“I am 8 years old and all I want to say is choose me, not guns,” she said.
High School student Maddison Gillott said, “I am tired of sitting around, waiting to see who will be shot next.” Her mother, Denise Gillott, was one of the final speakers: “My biggest fear is that this ends here. Let’s make the change. Don’t let it end today.”
– Tim Parsons