Waving signs on Ashland’s Plaza and drawing plenty of approving honks from passing cars, some 250 people Monday demanded common sense regulation of assault weapons and loudly chanted “No more silence, end gun violence.”
Most of the protesters, demonstrating in the wake of the latest massacre of school children which killed 17 in Florida, said they have hopes this time will be different and there may be Congressional and presidential action because teen survivors of the attack are organizing, marching, giving viral speeches on the internet and swaying the will of the country.
“We want our children to grow up where it’s safe to learn and where we don’t have to worry about them when they’re in class,” said Ashley Olsen, as her toddlers played about her feet. "I’m really inspired by what those teenagers in Florida are doing, the speeches they are making. This time it’s different. I can feel it. Enough is enough. We want regulation and common sense and to feel safe. The politicians have done nothing, so finally we’re doing something.”
Deborah Rothschild observed, “Hopefully, this time the adults will let the teenagers lead and I’m very ready to fall in line behind them. I’ve worked on gun safety many years and think it’s outrageous so many people are killed in this country with guns. Guns for hunting are fine but we don’t need assault weapons. They are only for killing people, not animals.”
Teacher Carolyn McCann said, “It’s the same thing over and over. After a school shooting, the politicians want to go play golf and cut the budget for people who need heat in the winter. School should be a safe place and for a lot of kids, it used to be the only safe place they had, but no more.”
One sign said, “In my thoughts and prayers, the NRA (National Rifle Association) doesn’t exist.” Another said, “AR-15, a child killing machine.” Yet another read, “Guns don’t die, children do.”
Two candidates for the Medford-Ashland state Senate seat demonstrated. Jeff Golden said, “The difference this time is it’s a national movement of young people who dare to demand they be safe in school.” Kevin Stine, a Medford city councilman, said, “We are seeing kids rise up who were victims in the shooting and they’re not going to give up. They hope to make a political force in the election — and Florida is a battleground state (for the next presidential election). This Congress won’t do anything (about guns) but the next one will.”
Sheya Rondeau said, “This is different because high school students are the leaders. They are smart and they’ve had enough. It’s obvious Congress has not (had enough). We’re angry enough — and enough is enough. My son is a high school teacher and I worry about his safety every day.”
Robert Price said, “I hope I am seeing the start of a revolution where people take back our government for the people, not for the contributions of big donors. People have had enough and the biggest thing this time is young kids are speaking up and they’re very articulate. I hope it doesn’t go on so long that it’s my granddaughter who has to speak up.”
Former Ashland city Councilor Karen Smith said, “I’m here to provide solidarity for those kids in Florida who are making the difference in getting the NRA out of our government. It’s disgraceful how much money they have given our politicians.”
Jack Leishman said, “For the first time in a long time, I feel hope — it’s coming out of those high school students. Something is going to happen this time. We have a better chance now against the NRA.”
His sign said, “I stand with Emma and call B.S.” The speech of shooting survivor Emma Gonzales is one that went viral, with her repeating the theme that “I call B.S.” on the range of politicians’ responses of thoughts and prayers, that the real problem is mental illness, and this is not the time for gun law reform.
Despite the theme of a groundswell of change, some, such as Sylvia Medeiros, voiced the realities of political change. “I’m not optimistic in the call for gun safety. We have 100 years of problems with too many guns.”
Kelly Sacks said, “I expect the kids to be heard and followed. Now is the time for the safety of us all, not for the big donors (to politicians). This is not about politics. Our children are not Republicans or Democrats. Our children are human beings."
— John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at email@example.com.