Photos: Gun violence survivors, students hold vigil for gun safety reforms
On a boiling Saturday evening, dozens in Tucson rallied for new gun safety reforms, holding a candlelight vigil to honor those lost to gun violence in the wake of a series of mass shootings over the last three weeks.
As the sun finally dropped behind the mountains, Tucsonans, many carrying signs, packed into Downtown's Armory Park and listened to speeches and songs as part of March for Our Lives, a nationwide event which consisted of rallies in hundreds of cities across the country, including Washington D.C., Dallas, and Phoenix.
The original March for Our Lives was launched in 2018 following the school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida when a former student used an AR-15-style rifle to kill 17 people and wound 17 more. Since then, there have been hundreds of mass shootings in the U.S., according to the Gun Violence Archive.
Last year there were 692 mass shootings, including 28 incidents in which multiple people were killed. Since 19 students and two teachers were killed in Uvalde on May 24, there have been more than four dozen mass shooting across the U.S., and 60 people have been killed, the archive shows. This includes five incidents in Arizona that killed six people in total and left several more wounded.
"For us and our classmates, these tragedies no longer surprise us, we expect them," wrote Fida Bijin, Ellie Dorland, Mallika Sunder, and Jeffrey Williams—the four student organizers leading the event in Tucson. "We must not accept school shootings as the new normal. Shootings like the one that took the lives of these children in Uvalde are not inevitable — not in Texas, not anywhere."
Along with the students, also speaking was Daniel Hernandez, a state legislator and current candidate for Arizona's Congressional District 6. Hernandez was working as a staffer for former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords when she was shot outside of a Safeway on Jan. 8, 2011. The shooting killed six people, including 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green and federal judge John Roll.
"As students, we face the threat of gun violence every day when we attend classes. In order to keep school shootings like Uvalde from happening again, we must prioritize prevention, and that begins with addressing the threat firearms pose when they are in the hands of young, dangerous people who have no training," wrote the student organizers. "It is time to voice our dissatisfaction with the laws and policies of this nation."
As the event closed, a guitarist played three songs, including Pink Floyd's "Turning Away," and organizers lit dozens of candles, grouped by the three most recent shootings, including Uvalde. The organizers also lit a single candle for the victims of the Parkland shooting.