On June 11, the North Carolina chapter of March for Our Lives held a rally in Raleigh. The rally was organized in response to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on the same day as other March for Our Lives protests nationwide. Speakers urged the crowd to continue to use their voices and speak out against gun violence.
Ashley Ju, the president of the Cary chapter of March for Our Lives, spoke candidly about the impact gun violence had on her educational career. She explained that though Cary is one of the safest towns in the US, it still experienced problems regarding gun violence and safety. Schools in her area have experienced school shooting threats, with her own eventually falling victim. That day, she texted her friend to meet her at her car and said, “I don’t want to die.”
Despite the tragedies and Americans’ support for more gun control, Ju stated that politicians continue to ignore constituents and “line their pockets with NRA money.” She also criticized the minimum age requirement to purchase an assault weapon. “Next year, I’m legally allowed to buy a gun, but not alcohol,” she stated.
Mark Jewell, former president of the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE), echoed these concerns. He explained that students have become numb to mass shootings because “adults in power have become numb to making the right decisions and passing the right legislation to protect them.”
Jewell stated that gun safety has become an important policy issue for the NCAE. He explained that teachers signed up to “give students purpose,” not carry guns. “There isn’t an educator that I know of that could’ve imagined that part of their job description would be…to help students practice shooter drills or have to one day risk their lives to protect students they were hired to educate and care for,” Jewell told the crowd.
Dr. Jonathan Wade, the department head of World Languages and Culture at Meredith, was present at the rally. He told The Herald that his daughters were a primary motivator for his attendance. “There’s no parent who went to school the day after Uvalde…that didn’t think about [their] kids,” he said. “I want them to see what democracy looks like and to know what I care about and one way I show it.”
As a professor, Dr. Wade has worried about a mass shooting taking place on campus. He explained that even though Meredith is a gun-free campus, it was still possible for someone to target a historically-women’s college. “I don’t want to take a bullet,” he said.
Ju, Jewell and Dr. Wade all believed that voting was an essential part of generating change. They explained that legislators need to rise above political affiliation on this issue. “I know that the right is obsessed with this because it’s a wedge issue for them,” Dr. Wade said. “But no one can really sit with the current state of affairs and feel good.”
Ju referenced state elections and gun control legislation currently making its way through Congress and urged attendees to vote for legislators that supported them. She won’t be old enough to vote in this upcoming election, but stated, “I hope that by the time I can, I won’t be able to buy a rifle.”
To get involved, you can join your local chapter of March for Our Lives or sign up for text alerts about future events and protests.
By Aminah Jenkins, Editor in Chief