‘March For Our Lives’ teaches hands-on civics

By Stephanie Carson
Public News Service – NC

ASHEVILLE — In an unprecedented demonstration of civic engagement, hundreds of thousands of young people and other activists will demonstrate Saturday in March For Our Lives events planned around the world.

There will be 10 such events in North Carolina, including Asheville, where local students are organizing the march with assistance from the local chapter of Moms Demand Action.

Photo by Fibonacci Blue | flickr

Photo by Fibonacci Blue | flickr

Asheville lead for Moms Demand Action, Jean Sutton, says it’s important to remember this call for change is something the Black Lives Matter movement began fighting for after Trayvon Martin was killed.

“These students have been at this for five years, asking and advocating for the exact same things that we are now doing,” says Sutton. “There is more media focus now, this time, but this is not a new issue and I can understand the frustration in other communities who say, ‘Hey, wait a second, we’ve been doing this for a long time now.'”

March for Our Lives – initiated in part by the people behind the Women’s March – is calling for passage of legislation to address the gun-violence issues the country is facing. Since the Columbine shootings in 1999, more than 187,000 students have been exposed to gun violence at schools.

Kaaren Haldeman, a statewide volunteer for Moms Demand Action, says the engagement behind the March for Our Lives could be shaping the next generation of voters.

“I like that they’ve turned to civic action as their outlet, says Haldeman. “It may be the generation that is a voting generation, because they’ve seen what’s happened in the past. You know, we’ve been at this for 20 years and we’ve barely moved the needle.”

Marches also are planned in Hendersonville, Burnsville, Raleigh, Durham, Fayetteville, Charlotte, Hickory and Wilmington. Sutton says the youth involved in the March for Our Lives are learning firsthand what going beyond the vote means.

“They can join local chapters of Students Demand Action, which is being activated after Saturday, and they can learn about these issues,” she says. “They can learn about state legislation. They can be educators themselves to their friends who are able to vote.”

North Carolina currently has no restrictions on assault weapons, no caliber or magazine capacity restrictions and few restrictions on the open carrying of firearms.

North Carolina’s U.S. Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis are among the top 10 recipients of National Rifle Association funding over the course of their careers – accepting a total of $11.6 million from the organization.

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