Despite overcast skies throughout the day and rain during the latter half of the speeches, hundreds took to the steps of the State Capitol building in Madison for the March for our Lives.
“Enough is enough” was among the several chants from the attendees as they urged elected officials at the state and federal level to pass gun control legislation.
Abigail Swetz is a former teacher and currently serves in the Department of Public Instruction as the Communications Director. She was among the speakers at the march. In light of past school shootings, she painted a picture of the fears students, parents, and teachers have.
“Being a student in America means sitting in a desk and wondering if the bullets that fly every single day in this country are coming for you today. Being a parent and a caregiver in America means dropping your kid off at the crossing guard or bus stop and questioning: Is this hug the last hug I will ever give my child? Being a teacher in America means knowing that if those bullets do start flying, my blood will fall first, and it means knowing that even my death cannot keep my students safe,” said Swetz.
Swetz tells WORT what she would like to see happen legislatively.
“I think we have to have really robust gun law reform, and that’s gonna take a lot of work and it’s gonna take a lot of different legislation, but I think the most important one is comprehensive background checks for absolutely every kind of gun purchase and banning the AR-15 again,” Swetz said.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, over 19,000 people have died from gun violence in the United States so far in 2022. The number of mass shootings in that same timeframe is 267. The Gun Violence Archive also reports that last weekend was the third straight weekend where the US had thirteen mass shootings from Friday to Sunday.
Saturday’s march was a sequel to the first one which took place in the month of March of 2018. That event followed, and was organized by survivors of, the shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida.
Eileen Carney, a rising senior at Madison East High School, also spoke. She referred back to the 2018 protests as well as advocacy from decades prior.
“In 2018, we stood in this exact same place saying the exact same things, and before that, gun violence prevention organizers who paved this road said those same things too,” Carney said. “We owe so much to those organizers decades ago who started this fight, the predominantly black and brown gun violence prevention advocates who were doing this work back in the sixties and seventies, and still not much has changed. We’re still here. We’re still marching. We go back to our roots today as we march literally for our lives.”
Polling by the Marquette Law School after the Parkland, Florida school shooting in 2018 is the most recent such polling by that institution. It concluded that most Wisconsinites support gun reform. The results showed that 81% of Wisconsin residents support background check requirements for gun sales, with 16% in opposition. The numbers are similar among gun owners: 78% of such respondents support background checks, and 18% oppose them. Opinions on a potential ban of assault-rifles are more divided, as 56% are in favor of such a move and 40% are against it.
Sara Dickfoss is a movement organizer for March for our Lives’s national efforts. She is confident that the second round of marches can lead to change.
“I think showing up again and really showing how powerful the youth are and that we’re gonna be taking to the votes in the midterms, I think that’s really important. And hopefully something will change. Hopefully the politicians are seeing that the Gen Z is going to show up in the elections and that they are a voice to be reckoned with,” said Dickfoss.
And that confidence has at least somewhat been paid. On Sunday, the day after the marches, U.S. Senators announced a bipartisan gun reform proposal. This follows another gun control bill that was passed in the House but is likely to face defeat in the Senate.
Photos by Reid Kamhi / WORT News Department