At UNCC, March For Our Lives Speakers Want Gun Law Changes
Back in March, students at UNC Charlotte began organizing a chapter of the nationwide youth movement March for Our Lives. On Friday, they held their first rally against gun violence, prompted by something none of them expected - a deadly shooting on their own campus.
About 150 students and staff gathered outside Belk Gym to call for change - whatever form that might take.
Some were specific - they want stronger gun laws. Senior Satoria Ray held a sign with red circle and a line through the letters NRA, for National Rifle Association. She read it: "It says 'You can put a silencer on a gun, but not on the voice of the people.'"
Ray blamed state and federal lawmakers for giving in to lobbying pressure against stricter gun laws.
"We have senators who are taking money from the NRA, when their constituents are saying we want you to support gun reform laws, and they're voting against it. We want more than thoughts and prayers, but that's all they're sending us," she said.
Others were less specific in their demands. Anais Vargas is president of the campus NAACP chapter. She said it's time for action, not thoughts and prayers.
"We've done our grieving and now it's time for us to demand change, we're upset, we're angry and this is what this is about from now on, from here on out," she said.
"I'm not sure exactly sure what that change needs to be, off the top of my head, but I know I just want to feel safe in the place where I get an education," Vargas said.
Other signs at the rally read "We Demand Change," "Books Not Bullets," and "Guns Don't Vote, But I Do." Several elected officials spoke, urging students to use the power of the ballot box to bring change in Raleigh and Washington.
The rally came just three days after a former student shot to death two students and injured four others in a classroom.
Professor John Cox fought back tears as he began to speak. He said he finds himself alternating between sadness and anger after this week. He said the UNC Charlotte shooting, and so many others like it should prompt people to "… contemplate what kind of a world do we live in, where this happens.
"But actually, it would be more accurate to say what kind of country do we live in? Cause this doesn't happen elsewhere. Outside of countries that are torn by war and civil war, we don't see random mass killings and general killings of civilians. So this is actually an American problem," Cox said.
Students planned another rally Friday night uptown - at Romare Bearden Park.