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Sunday, 24 June 2018 23:07

March for Our Lives

Written by Mary Ryan-Hotchkiss
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Mary Ryan-Hotchkiss – Portland Chapter

“Put away your sword,” Jesus told him. “Those who use the sword will die by the sword.”
—Matthew 26:52

Students at Parkland, Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School experienced the truth of this biblical statement. Survivors of the mass shooting that killed their classmates see the American culture swimming in the use of modern swords—guns, weapons of war, and violent entertainment—and are saying, “Enough!”

What did we do after Columbine happened, or after the little children died at Sandy Hook? Now the high school students from Parkland are saying, “Enough!” This time, more of us are joining our voices to theirs.

In Tucson, we joined an estimated 10,000 people carrying homemade signs and saying, “Enough!” in the March for Our Lives. Tucson and Arizona are not typically considered liberal areas, but the March demanded tightening of gun controls.  We were there on March 24, voting with our bodies and energy and homemade signs.  We were saying there is enough evidence that the American obsession with guns and violence is killing us and must finally be addressed.

Although the recent mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, ignited the March for Our Lives protests, many more thousands of Americans are killed each year by gun violence: including suicides—over 30,000 Americans per year. “96 Americans are killed by guns on an average day,” according to one handwritten sign.

Many of the signs targeted the NRA:

Not Relevant Anymore

No Rifles for Assault

No Respect for Anyone

NRA $ grabbing legislators hear our roar – Watch us vote!

The sign, “No Republican Answers,” blamed the GOP for legislative inaction. Voter registration volunteers wandered through the crowd signing up prospective voters, saying, “Remember in November.”

One student’s sign brought tears to my eyes. It listed the dates on which students were shot, followed by “Am I next?” One child’s bike sign just said, “Guns are Bad.” Many teachers’ signs rejected having weapons in schools and asked instead for books, training, and counselors. Another sign, “Active Shooter Drills Aren’t Normal,” emphasized that even students in “safe” schools still suffer from the gun violence.

A Catholic newspaper in Tucson featured Catholic school students commemorating the deaths from school shootings and asking for better gun control. Pope Francis recently commended youth who are raising their voices and encouraged them to continue speaking up. The USCCB backgrounder on gun violence echoes the words of Pope Paul VI, “If you want peace, work for justice,” and also asks for a ban on assault weapons, better gun control, and safety for students.

May we continue these efforts to help turn the tide against gun violence, to help our society put down our weapons, to live nonviolently as Jesus taught.

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