Residents march for their lives

Hundreds of Connecticut residents gathered in Shelton to participate in the March for Our Lives event, which was a response to the rash of mass school shootings across the country. — Robin Walluck photo

Tyler Monroe just wants to go to school and get home safely.

“I am afraid to go to school every day, because I am afraid I won’t get out,” she said to a crowd of hundreds during the March for Our Lives rally in Shelton.

This was the message teens, young children and adults had for lawmakers: “Enough is enough” of gun violence in school. Something has to be done.

Many participants and protesters were advocating for common-sense gun reform, saying they don’t want to take guns away from people, just make it harder to get automatic weapons, and less easy to get handguns.

“Owning a gun should be as regulated as it is to drive a car,” said Leslie Alexander of Oxford.

Harry Berkley said he supports banning assault rifles, even for hunting.

“We don’t need them, they’re not for sport,” he said.

Alexander was carrying a sign that said, “21st Century guns with 18th Century laws.” She said the Second Amendment is antiquated, in light of today’s gun technology.

“It was written to regulate militia . … It was written into the Constitution to address what will happen if Britain would try to take us back,” said Alexander.

Some lawmakers have proposed having educators carry weapons in the classroom.

“I’m a teacher. I will never carry a gun,” said Joan Berkley, who retired from teaching middle school in Stamford this past year. “I am not trained to handle a gun.” She said people who are highly trained in firearms should carry weapons, not someone who gets a brief lesson. She also raised concerns about students being able to access a gun a teacher had. “That’s my right, isn’t it? To not carry a gun.”

Kaitlyn Botsford, a social studies teacher and mother, knew one of the victims of the shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007 that killed 32 people.

“Today, students across the country are making it clear that they won’t stand for inaction,” she said. “It’s never easy to speak out” when you see something wrong, but you must. “Democracy is not a spectator sport. … This moment is important in this movement. You are the hope for the future.”

Alexander said she was at the rally Saturday in support of her grandchildren from Texas. She said they were threatened with suspension if they walked out of school to protest gun violence.

“My hope is that the students … will keep the pressure on the politicians,” said Alexander.

Julia Meyer, co-organizer of the march in Shelton, said, “My only question to Congress and President Trump is how many people must die” before something happens? she said. “I know that many people don’t feel safe … myself included. Guns kill people. No ifs, ands or buts about it.”

Colby Taylor, a junior at St. Joseph High School in Trumbull, spoke at the rally.

“I march because there are 26 angels who are on my mind every single day,” he said, referring to the 2012 shooting in Newtown.

He said that shooting was different from the one in Parkland because first graders can’t organize to protest. Teenagers were affected this time, and they can organize.

“It is easier to add brightness to darkness than darkness to light,” he said. “Teens can stand up and use our voices. We are the generation who will create change.”

He advocated for more security at school, easier access to mental health help, and gun buying regulations.

“No matter what your politics are, I hope we are all anti school shooting,” said Colby.

Sean Higgins, a staff assistant from Congressman Jim Himes’ office, spoke. He said he was a teenager in 2012 when Newtown happened, and he thought that was the last school shooting.

“This momentum needs to continue,” he said.

Higgins urged everyone to call and talk to their congress member to say how they feel about gun control. He said even if a representative believes in what you believe in, it still matters what you have to say.

“This past week alone, I have had one person call in about gun violence. That’s unacceptable,” he said.

Jimmy Tickey of Shelton, who works in Rosa DeLauro’s office, agreed.

“If you don’t speak out, what change are we going to have?”

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