South Bend March for Our Lives protestors call for government action to prevent gun violence
In the wake of mass shootings in Uvalde and Buffalo, more than 100 people gathered in downtown South Bend Saturday to call for stricter gun regulations and government action to prevent future gun violence.
The protest was one of hundreds of rallies across the country this weekend — including in Indianapolis —as part of the national March for Our Lives movement.
Lead organizer Braedon Troy, a rising senior at Saint Joseph High School, said enough is enough.
“We are tired of just seeing day after day, waking up to hearing ‘x’ amount of people shot at ‘x’ random errand, at a school, at a grocery store, at parties, in the streets — really, just everywhere,” Troy said. “Because this is not normal. We’re the only country in the world that has this problem, and I think it’s time we stand up and say no more.”
Protestors met in the Jon R. Hunt Plaza for a moment of silence and a reading of the names of those killed in Uvalde. Local educators were asked to come forward and given blue ribbons to honor their service.
Then, they heard speeches from activists, local officials and people affected by gun violence — including Cynthia and Jennifer Rios, two siblings who witnessed a May mass shooting at their home in Goshen where their brother, 17-year-old Richard Rios, was killed — before marching through downtown.
“Guns are so easy to purchase nowadays, that this man had purchased a gun overnight, showed up the next day, and without thinking about it tried to take four lives and took one,” Cynthia Rios said. “I can’t accept the fact that just how easily I met this person, he just as easily took away my family.”
South Bend Common Council member Lori Hamann said it’s time for “reasonable” gun regulations to save lives.
“This is a difficult fight, but we will prevail,” Hamann said. “And you, this new generation, will be a big part of that change. As I’ve talked to many of the youth in this city, I’m getting the sense that your BS radar has gone off.”
According to data from gun regulation advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety, Indiana has the 24th highest rate of gun violence in the United States. Hoosier gun deaths increased by 78 percent from 2011 to 2020, more than double the national average of 33 percent.
And in 2020, firearms overtook car accidents as the leading nationwide cause of death in children for the first time.
In light of that, fellow lead organizer Sarah Burns said it’s long past time for Congress to act — especially in the wake of the mass shooting in Uvalde.
“I just imagined people shooting people of my brother’s age,” Burns said. He’s 10, he’s innocent. And it just connected with me that it has to stop.”
A rising senior at Mishawaka High School, Burns said desired regulations include making 21 the minimum age for all gun purchases and requiring gun owners to obtain licenses to carry weapons in public.
Indiana’s controversial permitless carry law — which does away with that requirement — is set to go into effect on July 1. At least 23 other states have enacted similar policies.
Several officials criticized that law Saturday, including South Bend Common Council Member Canneth Lee and Maureen Bauer, a Democrat who represents South Bend in the Indiana State House.
“We don’t want that in Indiana,” Lee said. “I am proud that I live in a city where our mayor spoke out against it. I am proud that I live in a city where our sheriff, our police chief and our prosecutor spoke out against this.”
Baur also called on the Republican supermajorities in the Indiana State Legislature to pass “common sense” gun regulations, which she said are supported by Hoosiers.
“Remember this, you are the majority,” Bauer said. “Eighty percent of Hoosiers want to prevent people with mental illness from purchasing guns. Eighty-three percent support background checks for private and gun show sales.”
Similar protests were held this weekend in Fort Wayne, Bloomington, West Lafayette, Columbus and Evansville.
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