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March for Our Lives rallies in Indy, South Bend call for gun violence prevention

Becca McCracken, a volunteer with the gun reform group Moms Demand Action, leads protesters in a chant while marching from Tarkington Park  to the Indiana governor’s mansion. Hundreds gathered to protest gun violence as part of the national March for Our Lives rallies.
Darian Benson/WFYI
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Becca McCracken, a volunteer with the gun reform group Moms Demand Action, leads protesters in a chant while marching from Tarkington Park to the Indiana governor’s mansion. Hundreds gathered to protest gun violence as part of the national March for Our Lives rallies.

Hundreds of rallies were held across the country Saturday as part of the national March for Our Lives movement. March for our Lives was founded in 2018 by the survivors of a school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Across Indiana, there were rallies planned in Indianapolis, South Bend, Fort Wayne, Bloomington, West Lafayette, Columbus and Evansville.

Indianapolis

A few hundred people gathered Saturday afternoon at Tarkington Park in Indianapolis. Protesters were invited to make signs, write letters to Gov. Eric Holcomb and register to vote.

Lisa Larner was one of the rally organizers. Larner has three children in public schools in Indianapolis. She said the shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, last month hit close to home.

“I want my children to be going to school to learn and I want the teachers to be able to teach them,” Larner said. “I don't want them to go and fear for their lives because they have to do active shooting training, to do drills to protect them from gun shooters.”

Mary and Nick Daily-Hill brought their 2 and 3-year-old sons William and James to the rally. Mary said James will be entering kindergarten in a few years, and the thought of a school shooting is scary. The Daily-Hills urge elected officials to make a change in gun legislation.

“We keep voting for them and nothing keeps happening,” Nick Daily-Hill said. “And children and teachers keep on dying needlessly in our schools. And this absolutely needs to stop.”

Friends Naysa Patel, Eva Mathews and Isabelle Brouwer said students don’t feel safe in schools.The 15-year-olds said they attended the rally because they are too young to vote, but wanted to make their voices heard.

“I think it's important for kids to come here today because most of us have been targets of either gun violence or have been threatened by our school with gun violence,” Patel said. “So I think it's important that we should protect our rights.”

“We are the change,” Mathews added. “So we need to come here and try to change what we can because this is who we are. And this is our generation.”

Indianapolis fourth grade teacher Mackenzie Taylor said she also doesn’t feel safe at school, and is terrified for her students.

“I am tired of going to school every single day scared not only for my safety – for the safety for all my kids,” Taylor said. “My 9 and 10 year olds who should not be scared to go to school and learn every day.”

State Sens. J.D. Ford (D-Indianapolis) and Faddy Qaddoura (D-Indianapolis) were also in attendance.

The protesters marched from the park to thegovernor’s mansion, chanting for reformedgun laws. The group requested Holcomb come outside and speak with them, but he did not. The letters the group wrote were handed to a law enforcement official at the residence.

Contact reporter Darian Benson at dbenson@wfyi.org. Follow on Twitter: @helloimdarian.

South Bend

In the wake of mass shootings in Uvalde and Buffalo, more than 100 people gathered in downtown South Bend Saturday to call for stricter gun regulations and government action to prevent future gun violence.

Lead organizer Braedon Troy, a rising senior at Saint Joseph High School, said enough is enough.

“We are tired of just seeing day after day, waking up to hearing ‘x’ amount of people shot at ‘x’ random errand, at a school, at a grocery store, at parties, in the streets — really, just everywhere,” Troy said. “Because this is not normal. We’re the only country in the world that has this problem, and I think it’s time we stand up and say no more.”

Protestors met in the Jon R. Hunt Plaza for a moment of silence and a reading of the names of those killed in Uvalde. Local educators were asked to come forward and given blue ribbons to honor their service.

Then, they heard speeches from activists, local officials and people affected by gun violence — including Cynthia and Jennifer Rios, two siblings who witnessed a May mass shooting at their home in Goshenwhere their brother, 17-year-old Richard Rios, was killed — before marching through downtown.

“Guns are so easy to purchase nowadays that this man had purchased a gun overnight, showed up the next day, and without thinking about it tried to take four lives and took one,” Cynthia Rios said. “I can’t accept the fact that just how easily I met this person, he just as easily took away my family.”

South Bend Common Council member Lori Hamann said it’s time for “reasonable” gun regulations to save lives.

“This is a difficult fight, but we will prevail,” Hamann said. “And you, this new generation, will be a big part of that change. As I’ve talked to many of the youth in this city, I’m getting the sense that your BS radar has gone off.”

According to datafrom gun regulation advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety, Indiana has the 24th highest rate of gun violence in the United States. Hoosier gun deaths increased by 78 percent from 2011 to 2020, more than double the national average of 33 percent.

And in 2020, firearms overtook car accidentsas the leading nationwide cause of death in children for the first time.

In light of that, fellow lead organizer Sarah Burns said it’s long past time for Congress to act — especially in the wake of the mass shooting in Uvalde.

“I just imagined people shooting people of my brother’s age,” Burns said. "He’s 10, he’s innocent. And it just connected with me that it has to stop.”

A rising senior at Mishawaka High School, Burns said desired regulations include making 21 the minimum age for all gun purchases and requiring gun owners to obtain licenses to carry weapons in public.

Indiana’s controversial permitless carry law— which does away with that requirement — is set to go into effect on July 1. At least 23 other states have enacted similar policies.

Several officials criticized that law Saturday, including South Bend Common Council member Canneth Lee and Maureen Bauer, a Democrat who represents South Bend in the Indiana State House.

“We don’t want that in Indiana,” Lee said. “I am proud that I live in a city where our mayor spoke out against it. I am proud that I live in a city where our sheriff, our police chief and our prosecutor spoke out against this.”

Baur also called on the Republican supermajorities in the Indiana state legislature to pass “common sense” gun regulations, which she said are supported by Hoosiers.

“Remember this, you are the majority,” Bauer said. “Eighty percent of Hoosiers want to prevent people with mental illness from purchasing guns. Eighty-three percent support background checks for private and gun show sales.”

Contact Jakob at jlazzaro@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @JakobLazzaro.

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