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At 'March For Our Lives' Rallies In Texas And Beyond, Calls For Gun Control

In cities across Texas Saturday, thousands of people protested gun violence and called for stricter gun regulations.

Rallies organized in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, San Antonio and other cities across the state are part of the larger student-led "March For Our Lives" event. The movement was formed in response to last month's mass shooting at a Florida high school that left 17 students and school staff dead.

Students have been actively participating in the national gun debate since the school shooting, one of more than a dozen this year in the U.S.

In Washington, D.C., tens of thousands of people lined the streets, marching for gun control. Other rallies took place in cities big and small across the country -- including Parkland, Florida, the site of last month's school shooting.

PBS NewsHour reports on the march

Scenes from North Texas marches

In Fort Worth

In McKinney

In Dallas

In downtown Dallas, a raucous, energized crowd swelled into the thousands Saturday. Marchers included 11-year-old Audrey Ditzler from Denton.

“We always do lockdown drills more frequently than usual,” she said. “They tell you if anyone comes into the school with a gun to get down and if they shoot at you to get under the desk.”

Audrey says that doesn’t make her feel safer. It scares her. Her grandfather, Mike Lavelle, backs the 2nd Amendment and has owned and fired guns. But he says it’s time for change.

“We have background checks but we have loopholes that need to be closed,” he said. “The bump stocks need to be illegal. AR-15s may be OK for hunting and sporting. But magazines with 30, 40, 100 rounds -- that turns them into machine guns and nobody needs that.”

Learn more: Read more about the Dallas march.

Marches across Texas

In Houston

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner told several thousand people demonstrating for stricter gun control that adults have a responsibility to stand up and protect all children.

Turner spoke Saturday morning at a rally at Tranquillity Park. Turner chanted with the crowd "Now is the time" to "Do the right thing."

Some demonstrators carried American flags. Others displayed signs with slogans such as "Enough is Enough" and "Never Again." Another handmade poster said: "I Teach— Arm Me With Books, Not Bullets."

--The Associated Press

Learn more: Houston march coverage from Houston Public Media

In Austin

Thousands showed up outside the Texas State Capitol in Austin to protest. KUT in Austin reports that among those in the crowd was 16-year-old Sarah Payet, who was there with her parents.

She said a group from her high school decided to attend to support the safety of students.

“It’s really important to me that, not only me, but everyone else in this country is safe at their schools,” she said. “I’m here fighting not just for me, but for everyone.”

When asked what kind of policies she would like to see, Payet said she’d like it to be harder to get a gun. In particular, she argued in favor of raising the minimum age of purchase from 18 to 21.

“If you’re not legally allowed to drink alcohol,” Payet said, “it shouldn’t be easy to get a gun.”

Protesters yelled chants such as, “Not one more!” and “The NRA has got to go!” They held signs and called for gun regulations including raising minimum age to buy a gun, a ban on assault weapons and universal background checks that would require almost all firearm transactions go through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

--Nadia Hamdan, KUT

Marches across the country

Hundreds of thousands of people attended youth-led, anti-gun rallies across the United States and the world on Saturday.

Summoned by student survivors of the Florida school massacre, tens of thousands of people poured into the nation's capital. Organizers of the "March for Our Lives" rally in Washington hoped their protest would match in numbers and spirit last year's women's march, one of the biggest Washington protests since the Vietnam era and one that far exceeded predictions of 300,000 demonstrators.

Bearing signs reading "We Are the Change," ''No More Silence" and "Keep NRA Money Out of Politics," protesters lined Pennsylvania Avenue from the stage near the Capitol, stretching back toward the White House. 

President Donald Trump was in Florida for the weekend. 

"If you listen real close, you can hear the people in power shaking," David Hogg, a survivor of last month's Florida high school shooting who has emerged as one of the student leaders of the movement, told the roaring crowd of demonstrators at the Washington rally.

He warned: "We will get rid of these public servants who only care about the gun lobby."

The granddaughter of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. told demonstrators gathered in Washington that she too has a dream — for a gun-free world.

"I have a dream that enough is enough," Yolanda Renee King said, referencing her grandfather's famous speech. "That this should be a gun-free world. Period."

The crowd roared in response. 

Large rallies also took shape from coast to coast, in such cities as Boston, Houston and Parkland, Florida, the site of the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 people dead.

In New York City, tens of thousands gathered at a rally held a moment of silence to honor those killed at the high school.

Sam Hendler, a 16-year-old student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, was at the rally to read the victims' names.

Another MSD student, Meghan Bonner, told the demonstrators that she wasn't surprised when she learned the identity of the shooter because it was obvious something was wrong with him.

"There was so much more that could have been done to prevent this," she said, fighting back tears. "I want to see change."

--The Associated Press

The scene in Florida

More than 20,000 people filled the park near Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for a "March for Our Lives" rally Saturday morning. Students chanted "enough is enough" and held up signs with slogans like "our ballots will stop bullets." 

Others from the area traveled to Washington, D.C., where the main "March for Our Lives" event is being held. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft let over 100 people, including families of victims of the Parkland shooting, use the team's charter plane for the trip.

Team spokesman Stacey James says astronaut Mark Kelly reached out to Kraft for the favor.

"It's a hard thing to say no to, especially involving these victims," James said.

--The Associated Press

Learn more: More march coverage from NPR.

About the Dallas march

Sophie Conde, a Centennial High School junior from Frisco, is an organizer of Saturday’s march in Dallas. She says protesters want three things passed by lawmakers: a ban on bump stocks, a regulation on high-capacity magazines and universal background checks.

“If the universal background checks had been something that were already in place, then people like the teenager who committed the crime in Parkland wouldn’t have been able to have that gun,” Conde says.

Superintendent David Thweatt of Harrold ISD has a different perspective. His district of 115 students is located near Wichita Falls. For the last decade, some staffers have legally carried concealed weapons. Thweatt says concealed weapons carried by trained campus workers will limit carnage from violent school shooters. 

“One of the aspects of anonymity is that you don’t know where that resistance is going to come from," he said. "No one knows that those guns exist.”

Conde says she hasn't heard teachers at her school express a desire to be armed. 

"I think that if they're wanting to pursue giving more teachers training in guns, it needs to be extremely regulated," she says. "But I definitely still do not support arming all the teachers ... because I have teachers who can pop off and if they have a gun, I don't know if I'd feel safe with that." 

Thweatt wasn’t happy when students walked out of class in other parts of the country last week, but he doesn’t have a problem with them marching on their own time.

He disagrees with regulating high-capacity magazines and imposing universal background checks. But doing away with bump stocks makes "a little more sense," he said.

“We already say that automatic weaponry is not legal,” he said. “If you have something that makes a semi-automatic an automatic, then that’s an obvious jump right there.”

Otherwise, he wants no change to gun laws.

Details on local marches

This weekend, more than 800 marches are planned in conjunction with the main "March For Our Lives" demonstration in Washington D.C.

Here are details on the planned local demonstrations:

Photo: Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.
Eric Aasen is KERA’s managing editor. He helps lead the station's news department, including radio and digital reporters, producers and newscasters. He also oversees, the station’s news website, and manages the station's digital news projects. He reports and writes stories for the website and contributes pieces to KERA radio. He's discussed breaking news live on various public radio programs, including The Takeaway, Here & Now and Texas Standard, as well as radio and TV programs in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.