March for Our Lives organizers estimate 200,000 protesters attended the march in New York City. Over 800 so-called “sibling marches” were also held across the globe. RHODODENDRITES/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS VIA CC BY-SA 4.0

On Saturday, March 26, I attended the March for Our Lives in New York City, and it wasn’t what I expected. The issue of gun violence in the United States is so complicated that I felt it would be extremely difficult to come together as one force.

In reality, there were people from all different backgrounds and beliefs at the march rallying together. Gun violence isn’t a political party issue, and the only way we are going to implement any lasting change is through a bipartisan bill.

What changes are we implementing? Well for starters, the main goal of the protest wasn’t to take away people’s Second Amendment rights. The driving force was to protect the children. No child should ever have to go to school with the fear that they may never leave it again. No parent should ever have to bury their child because they wanted them to get an education.

Sure, there were many different opinions expressed at the march, like “stop the fascist regime!” and dismantling the NRA, but we still all came together. We’re tired of seeing children die. We’re tired of hearing that there was another shooting. We’re tired of nothing changing.

Personally, I find it ridiculous that the 19-year-old Parkland shooter, who had been repeatedly reported to law enforcement, could legally purchase an AR-15. We should have stricter background checks and a better process for obtaining guns. This would ensure that the person receiving the weapon doesn’t have a history of concerning behavior or a criminal record.

I am not alone in these views. They were not only expressed at the march, but they are also being addressed in bills that were introduced in Congress. The Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act, a bipartisan bill proposed by Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania in 2013, originally called for stricter background checks for gun sales. It didn’t pass due to negative backlash from conservatives and gun rights groups who felt it hurt Second Amendment rights, even though Toomey felt it was a win for gun owners.

According to Congress.org, the bill was meant to “ensure that all individuals who should be prohibited from buying a firearm are listed in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System…” This proposition can now hopefully gain more traction with the increase in advocacy for restricted gun laws after the Parkland shooting.

People have a hard time accepting and agreeing on a ban of assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons. I believe that they are all-powerful weapons that may aid to the recent gun violence; however, I feel we should tread lightly when proposing to pass legislation that ban guns people use frequently. Even the AR-15, a gun often used in past mass shootings, is tricky to propose a ban on. This is because even though the AR-15 is a semi-automatic weapon, it holds some similarities to hunting rifles, which many people would never agree to ban on.

In 1994, there was a Federal Assault Weapons Ban against assault rifles and some semi-automatic weapons for civilian use. Unfortunately, there were many loopholes and it ended up failing to decrease gun violence, but might have reduced mass shootings. I’m sure there is a possible solution that can be taken from our past attempts, but currently, it is smarter to take small steps. In this political climate, any change is an accomplishment.

There were counter protesters at the march, but I never felt unsafe. It is always expected that there will be people that disagree because everyone is entitled to their own opinion. We have a right to protest for a reason. I believe that it’s important to protest. There is nothing wrong with exercising your rights. I’ve been told that my attendance at the march wouldn’t change anything, but it does. Rising up and saying what you feel is wrong helps. Seeing the other people who agree with you and teaming up can make a huge difference. We are raising awareness and getting the attention of our senators and the administration. People watching on the streets or on television may find inspiration — they may end up voting differently and telling others.

A big theme of the march was to go vote. People with registration forms were on the sides of the road telling everyone to register, especially if you were turning 18 before Election Day. One vote and one voice can make a difference. I will definitely be exercising my right to vote, because I want change in my country.

I don’t even get surprised anymore when I hear about a shooting — all I feel is sad. Sad for our country, sad for the families of the victims and sad for the people that don’t see a problem. I want people in office who want to decrease gun violence and will follow through. Whether through background checks, a ban on a type of gun, a harder process to get a gun or even some type of education on guns, change needs to be implemented.

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