By Billie K. Fidlin, Director of Outreach Ministries
March 24th saw over 800 marches around the globe addressing gun control, in response to the shooting in Parkland, FL, where 17 people lost their lives. Here in Phoenix, the march, as with all the other marches, was organized by area youth, with adult organizers helping behind the scenes. While many organizations, such as Children’s Action Alliance, offered the youth their support, Arizonan’s for Gun Safety ( http://www.azfgs.com/ ) founder Gerry Hills, walked the journey with the youth every step of the way. Notably, Gerry is also the chair of the Conference Gun Violence Awareness Task Force and is a member of Paradise Valley United Methodist Church.
With an estimated attendance somewhere between 15,000–20,000, Arizona youth, adults, and allied partners came with a robust passion to listen to the many speeches and march. I was interested that among the youth, there was a greater number of girls. I was thrilled to see or learn of so many United Methodists, including our own Bishop Bob and Greta Hoshibata in attendance.
With a slight breeze in the air, the march itself was one of building community among strangers. It was peaceful in the face of angry opposition at the Capitol. And in a way, I believe the signs that were carried by so many, tell the rest of a divided American story. Some signs were accurate, others were not. But they told the tale of where we are as a people in these, the “United” States of America.
Take away our constitutional rights? I don’t think so!
Arms are made for hugging
Therapists can’t stop bullets
I’m a teacher, not a soldier
More Americans are killed by illegals than all mass shootings
Who decided your guns are more precious than our future?
Ballots not bullets
Now you’ve pissed off our children
NRA: No Rifles Allowed
Branches of the US government: Executive, Legislative, Judicial, NRA
GOP: Greed Over People
NRA: No Rational Reason for Assault Weapons
Don’t ban guns, ban TIDE pods
You can’t fix stupid but you can vote it out
Grab ‘em by the mid-terms
It’s so bad introverts are marching
How loud do the screams have to be for you to listen?
Grades not Guns / Books not Bullets
What about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?
History has its eyes on us
Never again! Ban assault weapons
18th-century laws cannot regulate 21st-century guns
If our Congress will not act we will elect a new Congress
Not 1 more excuse
Children or Guns? Why is this a question?
My uterus is more regulated than assault weapons
Quotes from the various youth speakers touched the hearts and minds of those in attendance.
“Keep your representatives accountable.”
“It’s not a school issue it’s a gun issue.”
“Take this to the polls.”
“Bullets don’t discriminate.”
“So many have died and their voices have yet to be heard.”
And Congressman Ruben Gallego talked about his experience in the military and that assault weapons should not be in the hands of civilians. They were created to kill as many people as possible and as quickly as possible. That is their sole purpose. When the parents of a woman killed in the Las Vegas shooting took the stage, there was an audible gasp from the crowd as they shared their pain. One young woman shared the following: I was 17 years old when I was forced to lay on the floor (of the restaurant where she was working) and now a year later… I’m still trying to pick myself up off the floor. The most prevalent call of all – register to vote/vote!
There were several main talking points for all the marches. Ban bump stocks, ban assault rifles for civilian use, raise the minimum age to buy a gun, universal background checks. What was not said, what was NEVER said, was take their guns away. The 2nd amendment of the Bill of Rights is not under threat.
What I know is this. We all care… how best can we come together for the common good? Perhaps one of the kids from Parkland said it best.
“Fight for your lives before it’s someone else’s job.”
Contact Billie Fidlin at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how you can become further involved in this issue, or if you want to have someone come to your church from the Gun Violence Awareness Task Force to conduct a civil dialogue event on this topic.