'Enough is enough': Protesters demand new gun-control measures in rallies across U.S.

Thousands of people rallied on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and across the United States on Saturday in a renewed push for gun-control measures after recent deadly mass shootings from Uvalde, Texas, to Buffalo, N.Y., that activists say should compel Congress to act.

Demonstrations held across U.S. in wake of recent mass shooting

Demonstrators, crowded in front of the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., call for stricter gun control measures following recent mass shootings that killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and 10 Black people at a grocery store in Buffalo, N.Y. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Thousands of people rallied on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and across the United States on Saturday in a renewed push for gun-control measures after recent deadly mass shootings from Uvalde, Texas, to Buffalo, N.Y., that activists say should compel Congress to act.

"Enough is enough," District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser told the second March for Our Lives rally in her city. "I speak as a mayor, a mom, and I speak for millions of Americans and America's mayors who are demanding that Congress do its job. And its job is to protect us, to protect our children from gun violence."

Speaker after speaker in Washington called on senators, who are seen as a major impediment to legislation, to act or face being voted out of office — especially given the shock to the nation's conscience after 19 children and two teachers were killed on May 24 at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.

The rally is a successor to the 2018 march organized by student protestors after a mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla. (Jose Luis Magana/The Associated Press)

"If our government can't do anything to stop 19 kids from being killed and slaughtered in their own school ... it's time to change who is in government," said David Hogg, a survivor of the 2018 shooting that killed 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

A co-founder of the March For Our Lives organization that was created after that shooting and held its first rally in Washington not long afterward, Hogg led the crowd in chants of "Vote them out."

Former Buffalo fire commissioner Garnell Whitfield Jr., son of Ruth Whitefield, one of the victims of last month's shooting in Buffalo, N.Y., speaks during the March for Our Lives event near the White House, in Washington, D.C., on Saturday. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Organizers hoped the second March for Our Lives rally would draw as many as 50,000 people to the Washington Monument, though the crowd seemed closer to 30,000. The 2018 event attracted more than 200,000 people, but the focus this time appeared to be on smaller marches at an estimated 300 locations.

Despite rain in the U.S. capital, scores turned out on the monument grounds well before the rally began, holding up signs, including one that said, "Children Aren't Replaceable, Senators Are. Vote." A middle school-age girl carried a sign that said, "I Want to Feel Safe at School."

"We want to make sure that this work is happening across the country," said Daud Mumin, co-chair of the march's board of directors and a recent graduate of Westminster College in Salt Lake City. "This work is not just about D.C., it's not just about senators."

In New York City, Mayor Eric Adams, who campaigned on reining in violence in the nation's largest city, joined state Attorney General Letitia James in leading activists across the Brooklyn Bridge.

"Nothing happens in this country until young people stand up — not politicians," said James, who is suing the National Rifle Association (NRA).

People cross the Brooklyn Bridge as part of the March for Our Lives rally, one of a series of U.S. protests against gun violence. (Jeenah Moon/Reuters)

In Portland, Maine, hundreds of people rallied in a park outside the city's courthouse before they marched through the Old Port and gathered outside of City Hall. At one point, they chanted, "Hey, hey, hey, NRA. How many kids did you kill today."

John Wuesthoff, a retired lawyer in Portland, said he was waving an American flag during the rally as a reminder that gun control is "not un-American."

"It's very American to have reasonable regulations to save the lives of our children," he said.

In San Antonio, about 137 kilometres east of Uvalde, marchers chanted "Hey, hey, ho, ho, the NRA has got to go."

A man who said he helped to organize the rally, Frank Ruiz, called for gun reform laws similar to those enacted in Florida after the Parkland shooting that focused on raising the age for purchasing certain firearms and flagging those with mental-health issues.

A woman hugs a boy as they take part in a March for Our Lives rally for gun control in Parkland, Fla., on Saturday. The first march was spurred by the Feb. 14, 2018, killings of 14 students and three staff members by a former student at the community's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. (Marco Bello/Reuters)

Following the mass shooting in Parkland in 2018, the youth-led March for Our Lives movement helped pressure the Republican-dominated Florida state government to enact sweeping gun control reforms.

The Parkland students then took aim at gun laws in other states and nationally, launching March for Our Lives and holding the big rally in Washington on March 24, 2018.

The group did not match the Florida results at the national level but has persisted in advocating for gun restrictions since then, as well as participating in voter registration drives.

A protester holds a sign behind crosses bearing the names of victims of the Uvalde, Texas, shooting, during a March for Our Lives rally at Brooklyn's Cadman Plaza Park in New York on Saturday. (Jeenah Moon/Reuters)

Hope that tragedies can spur changes to law

With another string of mass shootings bringing gun control back into the national conversation, organizers of this weekend's events say the time is right to renew their push for a national overhaul.

"Right now we are angry," said Mariah Cooley, a March for Our Lives board member and a senior at Washington's Howard University. "This will be a demonstration to show that us as Americans, we're not stopping any time soon until Congress does their jobs. And if not, we'll be voting them out."

Thousands of protesters crowded the National Mall in Washington, D.C. for the March For Our Lives rally, while other demonstrations took place in cities across the country. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The protest comes at a time of renewed political activity on guns and a crucial moment for possible action in Congress.

Survivors of mass shootings and other incidents of gun violence have lobbied legislators and testified on Capitol Hill this week. Among them was Miah Cerrillo, an 11-year-old girl who survived the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24. She told lawmakers how she covered herself with a dead classmate's blood to avoid being shot.

On Tuesday, actor Matthew McConaughey appeared at the White House briefing room to press for gun legislation and made highly personal remarks about the violence in his hometown of Uvalde.

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed bills to raise the age limit to buy semi-automatic weapons and establish federal "red flag" laws. A bipartisan group of senators had hoped to reach agreement this week on a framework for addressing the issue and held talks Friday, but no deal was announced.

U.S. President Joe Biden, who was in California when the Washington rally began, said his message to demonstrators was "keep marching" and added that he is "mildly optimistic" about legislative negotiations to address gun violence. Biden recently delivered an impassioned address to the country in which he called for several steps, including raising the age limit for buying assault-style weapons.

The House of Representatives has passed bills that would raise the age limit to buy semi-automatic weapons and establish federal "red flag" laws. But such initiatives have traditionally stalled or been heavily watered down in the Senate.

Mumin, the march's co-chair, referred to the Senate as "where substantive action goes to die," and said the new march is meant to send a message to lawmakers that public opinion on gun control is shifting under their feet.

"If they're not on our side, there are going to be consequences — voting them out of office and making their lives a living hell when they're in office," he said.

People participate in a March for Our Lives rally on Saturday at the Texas state Capitol in Austin, Texas, about 260 kilometres from the city of Uvalde, where a gunman killed 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary School last month. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)