On March 24th, the March For Our Lives demonstration was held around the country in support of tighter gun control. Though it is estimated that upwards of 1.2 million people turned out nationwide, the final numbers are unusually disputed. Contrary to the Women’s March and similar events where attendance was not a major subject of debate, private firm analysis and event organizers now disagree on how many people attended the MFOL DC rally. The firm used aerial photos to estimate 200,000 attendees in Washington, while event organizers claim 800,000.
Regardless, the march was a major show of force in cities across the country in favor of gun legislation reform. A number of Penn students attended the rally in Philadelphia and elsewhere. According to the March For Our Lives website, the objectives were:
- Universal, comprehensive background checks
- Bringing the ATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms] into the 21st century with a digitized, searchable database
- Funds for the Center for Disease Control to research the gun violence epidemic in America
- High-capacity magazine ban
- Assault weapons ban
It remains to be seen whether any of these goals will see legislative success.
I was in Washington DC at the time of the march, and it was quite the spectacle – jumbotrons set up along the march route, a large mass of people on Pennsylvania Avenue, and a bunch of high-schoolers shouting into the microphone with great passion. Credit should go where credit is due: it was an impressive event.
What struck me, however, were the messages portrayed through the crowd. While the platform gave a fairly straightforward address focused on gun violence, the masses were concerned with a number of issues. The vast majority advocated against the NRA, the second amendment, and other gun rights-related issues. Yet a larger proportion than I expected were promoting Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ pride, the Women’s March, general anti-Trump sentiment, and even a poster for the repeal of the Supreme Court Case Citizens United v. FEC.
Now, some of these are tangentially related to the gun debate. One of the stated focuses of the March For Our Lives was the effect of gun violence on racial minority groups, which would fall in-line with the traditional concerns of BLM. Yet it was clear that although gun violence was the issue of focus, it was not the motivating force of the march. A general progressive discontent with the administration and with Congress drove the protesters.
There has been much discussion of the youth activism involved. Students from Parkland, FL, where a mass shooting occurred in February, were the face of the march, and no one over the age of 18 was allowed to speak. While I agree this is an issue that impacts the younger age bracket, I disagree that this means young people may instruct the rest of the population how to act. Since they are affected by gun violence, they should voice their discontent. But they should not be the driving force behind specific resolutions like an assault weapons ban. I respect the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and all he stood for, but that does not mean I must take my cues about gun control from his 9-year old granddaughter.
There is a reason the voting age is where it is. The ability to understand the ramifications of the policies requested, through mental development and experience, must be present. True, we already have plenty of childish adults in Washington, so perhaps we would not be breaking new ground. All the same, there is no sense in adding to the problem.
The March For Our Lives was not so much an outcry against gun violence in general as it was an outcry for gun control, progressive reforms, and similar agendas. This should not come as a surprise. I have yet to see a march for something that everyone agrees with, as I think most people would state that they are not pro-gun violence. MFOL’s objectives were nevertheless clear, and it will be interesting to observe how the march impacts future legislation and the 2018 elections.