Hundreds of demonstrators backing tougher national gun control laws rallied Sunday afternoon at Boston City Hall Plaza to demand that federal lawmakers pass laws to expand background checks and prevent people deemed to be a danger from possessing firearms.
The rally, one of many scheduled across the country this weekend by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, came after a wave of mass shootings, including most recently ones in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, which together left 31 dead and scores injured.
The shootings have left the nation roiled in a bitter debate over guns ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
Speakers at Boston’s rally, including political leaders and survivors, sought to find common cause among those whose lives been traumatized by gun violence, whether from a mass shooting or from local crime.
“Gun violence is not an urban issue; it is a national issue, and we all have to work together to play our part,” said Ruth Rollins, who cofounded Operation LIPSTICK after her son was fatally shot in 2007.
Greg Gibson, whose son was one of two killed in a 1992 shooting at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, pointed to the number of people killed and injured by guns each year.
There are “hundreds of thousands suffering the grief, trauma, and displacement that come in the wake of gun violence; whole communities [are] turned into vengeful, dysfunctional battlegrounds,” Gibson said. “We should be ashamed of ourselves.”
Demonstrators called on the US Senate to return from recess this month and pass legislation that would require background checks on all gun sales, and enact a federal red-flag bill that would allow judges to keep firearms out of the hands of gun owners who are deemed to be a danger.
Red-flag rules already exist in 17 states, including Massachusetts, and the concept has drawn greater attention in recent weeks following the summer’s spate of mass shootings.
The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, has refused to bring senators back early to vote on proposed gun regulations.
And President Trump has rejected calls for tougher gun laws. At a Manchester, N.H. campaign appearance last week, he instead called for institutionalizing people with mental illness to keep them away from guns.
“We will be taking mentally deranged and dangerous people off of the streets so we won’t have to worry so much about them. A big problem,” Trump said.
US Senator Edward Markey said gun violence is a “preventable public health crisis.” Markey demanded that McConnell recall senators for a emergency session to consider gun legislation.
“We must unite as a nation to have this historic debate. This is the time, this is the place, you are the people,” Markey told the crowd. “We are either going to live together, or we are going to die together.”
Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston drew a parallel between the gun violence that claims lives every day in American cities and the deadly mass shootings that make national news.
Walsh said 200 mayors from across the country have called on the Senate to vote on a gun control bill.
“This isn’t about taking people’s guns away; we’re not taking people’s rights away.... What we are tired of is people being killed by guns,” Walsh said.
Among the demonstrators at the rally was Gretchen Soter-Moody, of Millbury, who had brought her 11-year-old daughter, Kyra.
Kyra Moody said students should not have to worry about violence.
“Bullets are not school supplies,” she said. “Kids should be able to focus on their studies, not [be] worried about if they can come to school tomorrow and be safe, and they’ll be able to go home to their parents.”
Bellingham resident Melissa Giosi, 42, said she has conversations with her 9-year-old son about the existence of “bad people” in the world.
“Luckily we haven’t been hit with knowing someone who has died from gun violence,” she said. “So I’m sure the conversation will change at that point, if that happens.”
She said she worries about the future.
“At this point, with how things are going... it’s just a matter of time before it gets to us,” Giosi said. “And that’s a terrible thing, to think that.”