About 100 people protested Tuesday in Winston-Salem for tougher gun-control laws a week after 19 children and two teachers were killed in a mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
The demonstrators gathered in the parking lot of Miller Street Market, near Whole Foods, and they then marched to the corner of West First and Miller streets in front of U.S. Sen. Richard Burr’s office in Winston-Salem.
A group of students at Reagan, Mount Tabor, Atkins, Reynolds and West Forsyth high schools organized the rally.
The protesters held signs, some of which said, “Silence Equal Violence,” “When Will Politicians Bite The Bullet,” “Ban Assault Rifles” and “No One is Safe Until We Change.”
Salvador Ramos, 18, opened fire May 24 at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, killing at least 19 children and two teachers. Ramos, who used an AR-15 assault rifle, was killed when he was confronted by law enforcement officers.
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Ten days earlier, a man, identified as Payton Gendron, 18, of Conklin, N.Y., fired a rifle at a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y., killing 10 people and wounding three others. Gendron has been charged with first-degree murder as prosecutors work to bring additional charges against him.
At the rally, many speakers spoke about the horror and pain of mass shootings at schools, criticizing Burr and fellow Republican U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, for accepting campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association. Other speaks encouraged the demonstrators to vote for candidates who support gun control laws in the November election.
Edwin Cruz Castillo, a senior at Atkins High School, read the names of the 21 victims in Uvalde, Texas.
“You cannot dispute that these people had a long life ahead of them,” Castillo said. “And they were taken from us.”
Castillo said that 18-year-olds should not be allowed to buy guns.
“I know how stupid and irresponsible (an) 18-year-old can be,” Castillo said. “Imagine if that kid had bad intentions. We don’t need to imagine. That is the reality.”
Castillo called for extensive background checks on people who want to buy guns. That measure will help combat the gun culture in the country, he said.
Helen Crowley, a senior at Reynolds High School, said the victims of mass shootings at schools have been children, teachers, mothers, fathers, son and daughters.
“The families, friends and classmates of these (people) murdered in school will have to deal with the consequences of gun irresponsibility and inhumanity,” Crowley said.
Survivors of mass shootings suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), lifelong injuries and “no response from our government,” Crowley said.
In Congress, a bipartisan group of senators talked over the weekend to see if they could reach even a modest compromise on gun legislation after a decade of mostly failed efforts. That included encouraging state “red flag” laws to keep guns away from those with mental health problems.
At the protest, Quamekia Shavers, an organizer with Winston 4 Peace, a social justice youth group, encouraged the demonstrators to register to vote.
“We need you guys voting,” Shavers said. “We need you guys voting at the polls, so we can get people out of office who don’t care about us.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.