Springfield activists rally in support of gun control legislation following mass shootings

·4 min read
Abby Edwards of Springfield sits next to lists of names of children killed in mass school shootings since 1999 during the March for Our Lives Against Guns Violence rally in front of the state Capitol on Saturday. The lists were rolled out by, back left to right, Tracy Owens of the Resistor Sisterhood, Britt Tate, and Keri Tate, also of the Resistor Sisterhood.
Abby Edwards of Springfield sits next to lists of names of children killed in mass school shootings since 1999 during the March for Our Lives Against Guns Violence rally in front of the state Capitol on Saturday. The lists were rolled out by, back left to right, Tracy Owens of the Resistor Sisterhood, Britt Tate, and Keri Tate, also of the Resistor Sisterhood.

Hundreds gathered at the Capitol to call for state and federal gun control legislation during Saturday's March for Our Lives Against Gun Violence Rally.

The event was organized by the Resistor Sisterhood, a group of nine Springfield-area women committed to advocating for social change through collective action.

While billed as an event under the March for Our Lives umbrella — one of more than 400 taking place across the country Saturday in light of mass shootings in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas — the Springfield event wasn't led by youth, despite the overall organization's background as a student-formed gun safety group.

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Rather, people from a wide range of backgrounds spoke about what it will take to end the spate of gun-related crimes that have hit both locally and beyond, through legislation, community activism and voting.

"We are furious, heartbroken and fed up," said Tracy Owens, co-founder of the Resister Sisterhood. "We are all outraged that more lives (and) more children have been lost due to gun violence. We all believed after the 2018 mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School (in Parkland, Florida) that enough was enough. We believed that Congress would take action to pass gun safety laws that would ensure further tragedies would not happen.

"Yet, they have not."

People attend the March for Our Lives Against Gun Violence Rally in front of the state Capitol on Saturday.
People attend the March for Our Lives Against Gun Violence Rally in front of the state Capitol on Saturday.

Many speakers talked about the necessity of organizing and making their voices heard through connecting with local politicians and voting in both the upcoming Illinois primary election on June 28 and the general election on Nov. 8.

Local activist Carolyn Cochran Kopel implored the crowd to demand that local and national legislators support significant changes to gun laws, from expanded background checks to raising the age limit on buying firearms to even a full ban on assault-style weapons.

"We've already won the debate," Kopel said. "We're not here to strategize on a path forward — we already know the right path is through legislative reform at the federal level, with reinforcement at the state and local levels. That's why we've gathered here in front of the Statehouse, so that we can demonstrate to our legislators how much we care and why it's time to act now."

Tara McClellan McAndrew of the Springfield chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America said people should research the kinds of candidates who support these kinds of laws and support them at the ballot box come Election Day.

"Ask if (candidates) support criminal background checks on all gun sales, keeping guns out of schools and colleges and if they oppose permit-less carry," McAndrew said. "Make sure your candidate doesn't go for it."

Karen Skinner of Springfield holds up a sign during the March for Our Lives Against Gun Violence Rally in front of the state Capitol on Saturday.
Karen Skinner of Springfield holds up a sign during the March for Our Lives Against Gun Violence Rally in front of the state Capitol on Saturday.

While a call to action was among the many goals for the event, it also was one that informed the audience about the many issues relating to gun violence. While the children weren't in charge, many of them provided facts about the nation's issues with gun violence.

Others provided poetry and stories about their experiences with guns, including Terrell Colione, a Chicago-based personal trainer who has been witness to friends who have been shot and killed on the city's streets. He told a story of having 37 bullets shot into his car, being hit by four of them.

"I've been celebrating 10-15 birthdays of people who aren't here any more," Colione said. "It's crazy because today, there's actually a funeral for one of my friends that just lost his life to gun violence. It was real tough for me (because) he was a close friend of mine. It's so crazy in Chicago, I didn't even want to travel back."

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Even gun owners spoke out about the need for common-sense reform, with Resistor Sister Kim Riddle saying that she and others like her are looking for stronger measures for gun safety inside and outside the home.

"I'm speaking today to put a face to what a responsible gun owner looks like," Riddle said. "I don't advocate for gun ownership and I understand why many advocate against it. But, it's also OK if you do like guns. It's OK to like guns while still supporting stronger gun safety measures."

At the end of the rally, organizers unfurled a list of names of those killed in mass shootings over the last 23 years, from Columbine High School to the Robb Elementary School shooting.

The Sisters said they hope the event spurs people to advocate for change.

"We're hoping not only to educate, but to motivate people to take some action," said Keri Tate, another co-founder of the Resistor Sisterhood. "That action could vary — it could be as simple as talking to other people about the things that they've learned and asking them to take action. It could be joining a group like Moms Demand Action or the Resistor Sisterhood.

"It could mean voting — we have a primary coming up — investigating candidates' platforms and making an informed choice based on the issues that are important to them, including reduction of gun violence."

Contact Zach Roth: (217) 899-4338; ZDRoth@gannett.com; @ZacharyRoth13

This article originally appeared on State Journal-Register: Springfield activists join March for Our Lives rally for gun control