About 150 people, most wearing the now iconic red tee shirts emblazoned with the Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America logo, gathered in Biltmore Park (near Kennedy Plaza) in downtown Providence on Saturday for a “recess rally.” The rally, attended by United States Senator Jack Reed (Democrat, Rhode Island) and other elected officials, was held to “to call upon [the] United States Senate to bring universal background checks and red flag laws up for a vote…”
Universal background checks would require almost all firearms transactions in the United States to be recorded and go through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), closing what is sometimes called the private sale exemption. Red flag laws permit police or family members to petition a state court to order the temporary removal of firearms from a person who may present a danger to others or themselves.
“I have personally called on Majority Leader McConnell to bring the Senate back from recess to vote on legislation immediately,” said Senator Reed, who supports universal background checks and red flag laws. “I would much prefer to be in Rhode Island but I should be in Washington today voting on gun legislation.”
The opening words came from Angela Howard McParland:
“It is past time for Senators to listen to their constituents and pass law that requires background checks on every gun sale as well as Federal red flag legislation,” said Giovanna Rodriguez, a gun violence survivor who emceed the event. “Today we are here to demand that the Senate take action.”
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“My son Stephen lost his life to a senseless, random act of gun violence in October of 2011 just two days before 24th birthday,” said Myra Latimer. “At the time of Stephen’s death he left behind a five-year-old daughter. Our entire life has been impacted by this senseless act. My granddaughter lost her father. My son lost his brother and best friend. I lost my firstborn child. I’m raising my son’s daughter, because he’s not here to do that…”
Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza (Democrat) went beyond universal background checks and red flag laws, calling for a ban on assault weapons.
“I do not understand the other side of this issue,” said Elorza. “There is no other side to this issue. People are dying. These deaths are preventable. It’s causing hate and fear in all of us, especially our kids. Why can’t we pass sensible gun legislation banning assault weapons, that are weapons of war, that don’t belong on our streets? Banning extended clips, passing universal background checks – this is common sense!”
“On November 26, 2011, my life would forever be changed. My daughter Essence would be chased and murdered in the very city I grew up in,” said Diana Garlington. “Her name was Essence Tyler Crystal and she was 21 years old. She also left behind a seven year old son. Not only have I lost Essence, to these senseless acts of violence, but four years later my I would lose my brother…”
Garlington also organizes the Lock Arms for Peace events in South Providence.
Jaychele Schenck, a student at the Met School and board member at Young Voices delivered a fabulous poem:
Gabe Mernoff, a student activist at Brown University with Thoughts, Prayers, Action:
University of Rhode Island student Devyn Hetu:
United States Representative James Langevin (Democrat, Rhode Island):
Powerful words from Bret Jacob, Mr Gay Rhode Island:
“I live in fear that if I put on a pair of heels, if I wear my sash, if I express love to my partner, if I express my gender the way that I want – that that will give somebody permission to harm me. So what does our community do when faced with this possibility? We create spaces that are for us. We have our own bars, our own nightclubs, sports leagues, coffee shops, medical facilities – We have spaces where, for a moment, we can be liberated of fear and pressure to be someone that we are not and the fear of the consequences of expressing ourselves the way we want outside in the world.
“Those spaces are important. And what happened in 2016, at Pulse, was a violation of our space. It was a violation of space that we made for ourselves when nowhere else felt safe. The LGBT community is the second highest classification of hate crimes that are reported and classified as hate crimes. Gay men are more likely to experience gun violence as a result of those hate crimes and our space was violated by a horrific mass shooting. There is nowhere that is safe for us anymore.
“This issue of gun violence is an LGBTQ+ issue and as much as this is, I hope, informative, it is also a call to action. To everyone in our community who is unsure of how to mobilize in a post marriage equality world, of what issue to focus on, this is one of those issues.”
Representative Marcia Ranglin-Vassell (Democrat, District 5, Providence):
Giovanna Rodriguez wraps things up:
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