For years, gun violence survivors and activists have worked tirelessly for change, through swings in public attention, years of federal inaction and a rapidly rising body count — shooting after senseless shooting.
The March For Our Lives, however, signals a level of national momentum never seen before in the anti-gun violence movement.
Ronnie Mosley has been fighting for change for more than a decade, after his best friend Blair Holt was shot and killed on a bus in Chicago. They were both teenagers at the time. Mosley is now an activist and community organizer, but working for gun reform has been a daily struggle.
“It’s moments like today, when Parkland students stand up, that really keep you at the front line,” Mosley said. “Even the tragedies that happen, every death, every injury, is a reminder that there is no pause in this fight.”
Sophie Ackert was just 13 years old in 2012 when her neighbor, Adam Lanza, opened fire at her local elementary school, Sandy Hook, murdering 20 children and six adults. After the massacre, Ackert’s dad founded the Newtown Action Alliance in Connecticut and she has been involved in youth organizing ever since.
“I pass the houses of the victims every single day,” Ackert said. “They’re my next-door neighbors. My brother’s best friend, three of his closest friends, died.”
Years of continuously fighting for stricter gun laws have been painful. While there have been legislative victories in Connecticut, Ackert said, it’s been “really frustrating” to see “the legislatures not caring on a national level.”
“I expected to jump in, go to D.C. a few times, lobby and us to have some great change in America, and that’s just not what happens,” Ackert said.
But this moment feels different, Mosley said. More Americans than ever support stricter gun control, and political pressure continues to increase. An estimated 800,000 people, including Mosley, marched in our nation’s capital on Saturday, and millions of others around the world took to the streets. While Mosley is optimistic for change, he’s cautiously optimistic.
“We’re excited about this moment, about the potential passing background checks and banning assault rifle weapons,” he said. “But we know that that does not eradicate gun violence.”
Mosley and Ackert have vowed to continue their fight to see real change, but Mosley said gun violence needs to be understood “holistically.”
“We have to give them … the whole history of gun violence. Not just from Sandy Hook. Not just from Columbine. Not just from Virginia Tech, but also the shootings that happen daily,” he said. “The daily genocide that happens in America’s backyard.”