With umbrellas and signs in hand, chants of “Thoughts and prayers are not enough” and “enough is enough” rang through the steady rain as some 150 people called for action to stop gun violence Saturday at Riverfront Park.
Grace Wahlman, an Eastern Washington University graduate student and an organizer of Saturday’s gun control rally, said she was tired of being quiet.
“I’m tired of us dying again and again because of rights over an object winning over our rights to live,” she told the crowd.
Wahlman told The Spokesman-Review she’s been passionate about sparking action against gun violence since she lost her 22-year-old brother and his 21-year-old girlfriend to suicide by gun in 2018. She said it feels like she loses her brother, who would be 26, every time she hears the news of lives lost to shootings.
“It turned my whole world around,” she said. “Everything about my life changed.”
Wahlman said she wanted to organize a rally after the shooting last month that left 19 students and two teachers dead at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. She and a few Lewis and Clark High School students, with the assistance of local organizations, planned Saturday’s gathering.
More than 100 students at Lewis and Clark walked out of class May 26 to protest gun violence and honor the victims gunned down by an 18-year-old at Robb Elementary.
LC senior Gabriel Kelly helped organize the high school walkout as well as Saturday’s rally.
“I shouldn’t have to organize a walkout for 21 people who died,” Kelly told the crowd. “I shouldn’t have to organize a walkout because a shooter decided that they’re gonna go to a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, and open fire.”
Kelly encouraged people to get out and vote so changes can be made.
“It is not fair that me as an 18-year-old has to yell at a Congress member or our government representatives to make sure that kids aren’t shot,” Kelly said.
Other chants like, “No more silence, end gun violence” were voiced during the roughly 40-minute rally outside the U.S. Pavilion at the park. Signs like, “WE CAN END GUN VIOLENCE,” “MOMS DEMAND ACTION” and “LOVE” could be seen at the rally.
Kelly asked the crowd to observe a one-minute moment of silence for those who have been killed by guns.
Organizers and attendees called for lawmakers to ban assault rifles, implement more stringent background checks and provide universal health care so people can access mental health resources.
Terren Roloff, a Spokane resident, held a sign that read, “FOR GOD’S SAKE CATHY DO SOMETHING TO PROTECT OUR KIDS,” in reference to Spokane Republican U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers.
“I’m so frightened for children,” she told The Spokesman-Review. “I’m so frightened for teachers. I’m just frightened for all of us, even us here.”
Roloff said the availability of assault rifles across the nation is “ridiculous” and she wants lawmakers, like McMorris Rodgers, to ban them.
“We can all agree children should not be killed by an assault weapon anywhere,” Roloff said.
“Step up and do the right thing, finally,” she urged lawmakers. “Do it. It’s time.”
Kelly told The Spokesman-Review of a desire for “intense background checks,” including checking someone’s social media accounts before he or she can purchase a gun. Kelly also advocated against armed school resource officers.
“That is just unacceptable because at the end of the day, that still puts guns in schools,” Kelly said. “That is not something that should be a reality here.”
Wahlman told the crowd gun violence is solvable and they have the power to change the country’s narrative.
“This is not out of our control,” she said.
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