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Lobbyists, lawmakers, families of gun violence victims and survivors from Connecticut will make their way to Washington, D.C. on Saturday for the March for Our Lives rally.
Similar rallies are also being held in Newtown, Hartford, Stamford, Westport and cities across the United States.
The March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C. will converge at noon on Saturday as millions across the country ask Congress to pass stricter gun laws in the wake of deadly mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas. Many of the participants have lived through tragedies far too similar to those that have reinvigorated the movement in the last few weeks.
About 5 a.m. Saturday, a group of high school students — many who survived the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School where 26 of their classmates and educators were killed — will board a bus to Washington, D.C. The teens, members of the Junior Newtown Action Alliance, will join activists from all over the United States.
As the 10-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting approaches this December, the Jr. Newtown Action Alliance — formed the year after the tragedy — includes members who were inside Sandy Hook classrooms when the nation’s deadliest school shooting in history took place.
This year’s board is made up of many students who were third-graders at the school at the time of the shooting, said adviser Carol Wakeman. Next year’s board members, also joining the group in Washington, were part of the first-grade class targeted in the tragedy.
Wakeman said that with the upcoming Sandy Hook anniversary and the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Texas resurfacing old wounds recently, the teens are ready to have their voices heard and demand change.
“I hope we can make some positive change from it,” said Wakeman, who is also a board member of the Newtown Action Alliance.
She hopes the trip to Washington will invigorate their activism and remind them that they aren’t alone in their fight.
“It’s going to be an amazing experience for all of them,” said Wakeman. “The energy, the positivity, the hopefulness that there’s going to be change.”
Po Murray, co-founder of Newtown Action Alliance, started her advocacy work after her neighbor, Adam Lanza, massacred members of their community at Sandy Hook Elementary. Murray will join her fellow activists at the march. She was in Washington, D.C. this week lobbying for Congress and meeting with other advocates like David Hogg, a founder of March For Our Lives and survivor of the mass school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal on Thursday met with students from March for Our Lives who are lobbying for legislation he is fighting for in the Senate. The senator, who plans to join marches in Newtown, Hartford and Stamford this weekend, said that he was inspired by the work the young people from March For Our Lives are doing.
Connecticut’s U.S. senators said they have been working tirelessly toward a bipartisan legislative package in the wake of the Uvalde and Buffalo shootings. Blumenthal and Sen. Chris Murphy said they have been meeting with their Republican colleagues to try to reach a compromise that will pass the senate.
“These folks are just so passionate and dedicated and their activism is really inspiring a lot of people,” said Blumenthal. “They’ve helped create a movement.”
Wakeman, who has been the adviser of the Junior Newtown Action Alliance for nine years, said she’s proud of the work the Newtown teens are doing to make sure other children don’t have to survive what they did. But she knows it comes at a cost.
As high school students, she said, they should be focused on their graduations and proms, instead they’re participating in walk-outs, vigils and die-ins.
“It’s sad that this has to fall on them to make the change. They shouldn’t have to be doing this. They should be having normal high school years,” she said.
“It takes a lot of strength out of them, a lot of energy out of them — they have to relive some moments in their life that bring up more and more trauma,” she said.
Parents who lost children in Sandy Hook have spoken out this month about the trauma that has resurfaced as they’ve watched families in Uvalde walk the same path they did nearly a decade ago.
Gun violence prevention groups started in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, like Sandy Hook Promise, Moms Demand Action and Safe and Sound Schools, have all been calling on Congress to not let this moment pass and to pass legislation that they hope will prevent future school shootings.
This week, the United States House of Representatives passed a sweeping gun control bill that would raise the age limit for purchasing semi-automatic rifles and high capacity magazines and would require safe storage of firearms in houses with children. The House also passed a “red flag” bill, which would give families and law enforcement the ability to ask courts to prevent people from buying firearms if they’re likely to harm themselves or others.