“It’s different this time. “David Hogg keeps repeating it at the podium in front of the thousands of people gathered this Saturday, June 11 at the foot of the Washington Monument, in the heart of the capital. “It’s different this time,” says the co-founder of the March for Our Lives movement, on the occasion of a national day of mobilization in favor of increased gun control. The recent killings, in May, in a Buffalo supermarket and in the Uvalde school have put this nagging question back at the heart of the news. They also recalled the paralysis of Congress, where the sector lobby relies on a Republican Party won over to its interests, in the name of the second amendment to the Constitution and its financial contributions to electoral campaigns.
The crowd was far smaller than the gigantic gathering of 2018 in this same place. Is it out of weariness, out of resignation in the face of the political deadlock on this issue? An effect of bad weather in the capital? On the podium, the speakers followed one another. Survivors of mass killings, activists or politicians, they all showed the same impatience, with one horizon line: the mid-term elections in November.
“Vote Them Out!” resumed the crowd, meaning that it will be necessary to punish at the polls those who oppose any strengthening of the legislation. The great diversity of signs held up gave an idea of the general state of mind. “Teach love, not confinement”, “teachers are not soldiers”, “fear has no place in our schools”, or “human beings rather than prairie dogs”, in reference to the argument of elected Republicans on the weapons of war, which would be necessary against certain wild animals. On the lawn, huge rows of artificial flowers, white and orange, were arranged, representing the deaths by firearms. The orange flowers symbolize, says a sign, the 5,000 more victims in 2020 than in 2019.
“A Moral Question”
Victoria Makanjuola, 23, extended her stay in Washington, where she had been to attend a gathering of progressive organizations, to march against guns. Originally from Plano (Texas), this communication graduate works in an association of the black community. She was “heartbroken” after the Uvalde shooting, and believes Texas authorities are “sitting on this gun issue.” But she refuses to believe that the steps aren’t much use. “There is strength in numbers,” she said. Nothing happens until something horrible happens. »
Nearby, Helen Emond, 36, spread a blanket on the ground to sit on with one of her two 11-year-old sons. Originally from Teaneck, New Jersey, she admits that out of fear of the killings, she gave everyone a cell phone, “even though they’re supposed to leave them in their lockers. But I want them to be able to call me, if ever…” Helen Emond is a social worker, she works with “survivors of domestic violence”. She votes Democrat. “Nobody in Congress does anything about guns,” she sighs. I don’t have much hope but we have to show that we are not indifferent, that we are there. »
In recent weeks, the leading figures of the March for Our Lives movement have spent a lot of time in the halls of Congress trying to convince elected officials. “It’s not a political issue, it’s a moral issue,” said David Hogg, himself a survivor of the 2018 Parkland high school shooting. gun violence than ever before because we stand together against gun violence as Americans. The young man dreams of a movement that would go beyond partisan lines, in the name of everyone’s safety.
A small group of Republican and Democrat senators have formed to try to break the deadlock and push for additional control measures. “If we reach a deal that saves lives, it will be both a triumph and a miracle,” said Democratic Senator Chris Murphy (Connecticut), who is leading the negotiations with his Republican counterpart from Texas, John Cornyn. The Democrats are ready for a minimum compromise because they have to convince ten Republicans for the text to pass.
These measures can therefore only be small steps. The first text envisaged would be to encourage the adoption of so-called “red flag” legislation in the States – nineteen of them have already taken this step. This makes it possible to seize, on the decision of a judge, the weapons of a person presenting a risk to himself or others. The other text would strengthen the control of the criminal record before any purchase. The elected Democrats would like to go further, in particular by raising the minimum age from 18 to 21 for acquiring a weapon of war, such as the famous AR-15. These weapons had been banned from 1993, before the legislation expired in 2004.
A form of exasperation is winning over a majority of Americans about excessive permissiveness in the firearms market, with the spread of semi-automatics in particular. On June 8, the video testimony, before a committee of the House of Representatives, of an 11-year-old girl, educated in the Robb elementary school in Uvalde, was particularly moving. Miah Cerrillo explained how, with her classmates, she hid behind the teacher’s desk when the killer arrived. He said “good night” to the teacher before shooting her and then shooting the children. Miah had the presence of mind to cover herself in another student’s blood, stand still, and then call the police on the teacher’s phone.