The March for Our Lives ended its national Road-To-Change bus tour on Sunday in Newtown, Connecticut, six months after the shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school inspired protests calling for what activists say are common-sense gun reforms.
Teenage activists took center stage Sunday as throngs of people gathered to hear them at the Fairfield Hills Campus in Newtown, ten minutes from Sandy Hook Elementary School. Among them was Natalie Barden, with the Junior Newtown Action Alliance, who lost a younger sibling in the shooting there six years ago.
“We are all here today because no one should have to feel the life shattering pain of losing a loved one to a gun,” she said, addressing the crowds.
Tommy Murray, also with the Junior Newtown Action Alliance, called attention to his fellow teens from Parkland, who began the March for Our Lives movement in the days after the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School there claimed 17 lives.
“Five years ago, many of us were too young to fully understand what happened at Sandy Hook, but when you spoke up and demanded that you be heard, you inspired us to do more,” he said.
The teens traversing the country with March for Our Lives were on a mission to encourage young people who are turning 18 to register to vote in the November elections. They hope to bring about gun-law reforms and weaken the National Rifle Association by changing the makeup of Congress.
About 30 students with the Hartford non-profit, Hartford Communities That Care, took part in the forum. They met at the Ana Grace Love Wins playground before they headed to Newtown.
Some of the students said they have been captivated by the movement and wanted to be a part of it. One of the young activists said he was eager to share what he has learned over the past year.
”It’s not about just school shootings and all that,” said Joshua Fee with HCTC. “It’s about urban gun violence as well because it starts in our own communities and goes further out, so if we control it in our own communities then maybe it can prevent it from going to other communities.”
”I was confused really by why Newtown when a lot of the gun violence happens in Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven, so when they reached out and said we can send a bus for anyone else who you feel like should be at the table I was just really, really excited to partner with Hartford Communities That Care and make that happen today,” said Nelba Marquez-Green, who lost her daughter Ana Grace in the Sandy Hook shooting.
Jackie Corin, a student speaker with March for Our Lives, spoke to the similarities between Parkland and Newtown and the symbolism inherent in ending their 50-city tour there, after the summer tour made stops in other notable sites of gun violence like Chicago, Illinois; Aurora, Colorado; and Charlottesville, Virginia.
“We are both suburban areas with similar population demographics, and we are both cities that forced our nation to come together when violence unexpectedly moved in,” Corin said.
Connecticut, unlike Florida, has some of the toughest gun laws in the country. The March for Our Lives organizers also encourage people to look beyond the laws and politicians where they live to areas with weaker gun laws, pointing to gun trafficking from those places as another reason to join a political campaign for change.