Tens of thousands of demonstrators are expected to rally in Washington, DC, and across the US, as part of a renewed push for nationwide gun controls following the recent massacre of students and teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
More than 450 rallies are scheduled for Saturday, including events in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, according to March for Our Lives, a gun safety group founded by student survivors of a 2018 massacre at a high school in Florida.
Demonstrators have a simple message for US political leaders, according to organisers: Your inaction is killing Americans.
“We will no longer allow you to sit back while people continue to die,” Trevon Bosley, a board member of the group, said in an emailed statement.
The group’s 2018 march on Washington, just weeks after 17 people were killed at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, brought more than 200,000 people to the US capital to pressure Congress to enact sweeping reforms – though Republican opposition has prevented any new limits on guns from passing the US Senate.
This time around, organisers are focusing on holding smaller marches.
“We want to make sure that this work is happening across the country,” said Daud Mumin, co-chairman of the march’s board of directors and a recent graduate of Westminster College in Salt Lake City.
“This work is not just about DC, it’s not just about senators.”
Motivated to demonstrate following a recent surge in mass shootings, from Uvalde to Buffalo, New York, protesters are calling on lawmakers to take note of shifting public opinion and pass legislation aimed at curbing gun violence.
The attack in Uvalde that killed 19 children and two teachers on May 24, took place just 10 days after another gunman murdered 10 Black people in a Buffalo grocery store in a racist attack.
Now, with another string of mass shootings bringing gun control back into the national conversation, organisers of the demonstrations said the time is right to renew their push for a national overhaul of gun laws in the US.
“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 anytime soon until Congress does their jobs. And if not, we’ll be voting them out.”
Among other policies, members of March for Our Lives have called for an assault weapons ban, universal background checks for those trying to buy guns, and a national licensing system, which would register all gun owners.
In recent weeks, a bipartisan group of Senate negotiators have pledged to hammer out a deal, though they have yet to reach an agreement on new gun legislation.
Their efforts are focused on relatively modest changes, such as incentivising states to pass “red flag” laws that allow authorities to keep guns from individuals deemed a danger to others.
The Democratic-controlled US House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a sweeping set of gun safety measures. That legislation, however, has no chance of advancing in the Senate, where Republicans have opposed gun limits as infringing upon the US Constitution’s Second Amendment right to bear arms.
Survivors of mass shootings and other victims 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 school shooting in Uvalde. She told legislators how she covered herself with a dead classmate’s blood to avoid being killed.
On Tuesday, Hollywood 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.
Saturday’s march is to send a message to US lawmakers that public opinion on gun control is shifting under their feet, organisers said.
“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,” said Mumin, the co-chairman of the march’s board of directors.