By William C. Singleton III
Several Over the Mountain residents assembled along with thousands of others who attended the March for Our Lives at Railroad Park in Birmingham.
Some attended simply to witness student activism firsthand as many students called for common-sense gun control and encouraged their generation to exercise the right to vote.
Nearly 5,000 attended the March 24 rally – one of several held across the nation and in cities such as Boston, Chicago, Washington D.C., and New York.
More students are becoming mobilized to political action following the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead. They’re looking to adults and politicians for direction and to lead the fight to make their schools – and their world – a safer place.
Stephen Ingram, a minister and Homewood resident with three children in city schools, took his family – which includes his wife and three school-age children – to the march. Ingram said the event was well-organized and well-executed.
“The student speakers had very powerful and compelling messages,” he said. “The atmosphere was really upbeat and positive.”
Ingram said he attended the rally because he supports “common-sense gun reform,” which he believes should include banning common use of military-grade weapons and ammunition, developing a universal background check system and closing loopholes that make easy purchase of firearms at gun shows possible.
“I think there’s a middle ground most Americans really are OK with if we can get out of the polarization,” he said. “There are some common-sense laws we can enact that will help with this situation and that won’t impede hunting or doing good, legal activities with guns.”
Ingram said it’s unfortunate educators and parents must consider the possibility of active shooter situations at their schools.
“Every time I hear police sirens going in the direction of my kids’ school, I think ‘Oh, God, what if something has happened at the school,’” he said. “A 5-year-old should not know what an active shooter is, much less have to be drilled in how to be safe if one shows up. That’s not the kind of country I want to raise my children in, and I know there are ways that we can make that better.”
Mountain Brook resident LaVone Warren said she attended the rally to support students “who want adults to take some action – beyond thoughts and prayers – to stop further school shootings and other mass shootings.” Like Ingram, she said she’s dismayed that students have to practice active shooter drills as part of their educational training.
“I realize this is a complex issue, and there are no simple solutions to the problems of gun violence, but we have to start somewhere,” Warren said. “I think restricting sales of weapons capable of killing so many people in a relatively short period of time is a start.”
Sherri Friday, Jefferson County probate judge and Mountain Brook resident, attended the rally because, “These young people have such passion, and I feel like we need to be there to support them.”
Friday said she has seen the impact firearms have had on the mentally ill. As probate judge, she handles involuntary mental health commitments to the state hospital. She recalled a recent incident involving a patient on outpatient commitment who got access to a gun and killed himself.
“The access to guns is just too readily available,” she said. “I know people say people will just obtain guns illegally if you make them illegal. But we’ve got to curb the access to guns in our environment for no other reason than mental health” and to protect the mentally ill. “I think most people are for reasonable gun control once you talk to them about it,” she said. ❖