The March For Our Lives rally June 11 in Downers Grove was a grim reminder of the cost of gun violence.
In 2018, hundreds turned out for the first March For Our Lives rally at Downers Grove High School. That time, it was in response to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 students were killed. Hundreds returned again to the same parking lot in Downers Grove on Saturday echoing their call for an end to gun violence – this time 18 days after 19 elementary school students and two teachers were killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
“I hate it,” rally organizer Jax West said when asked about being back for a second rally. “This is enough. ... I’m upset at having to be here.”
Speaker after speaker reiterated the same cry as they called for changes to gun laws.
“No more delays, no more excuses, no more senseless deaths,” said Rebecca Gamboa, a fifth-grade teacher at Madison Elementary School in Lombard and a member of the National Education Association board of directors. “No more. We’ve had enough.”
Similar rallies were held across the country Saturday in conjunction with March For Our Lives, a national movement fighting for an end to gun violence. Rallies were held in Downers Grove, St. Charles, Palatine and Elgin, according to the group’s website.
The Downers Grove rally featured several speakers, including several politicians, who encouraged people to vote, hold their lawmakers accountable to passing gun control legislation and speak out against gun violence.
“Do not lose hope. Do not give up,” Democratic U.S. Rep. Sean Casten of Downers Grove told the crowd. “Keep marching. Keep showing up because it’s the only thing that works.”
Red flag laws expanded to include school administrators, a three-day waiting period, a ban on certain weapons such as AR-15s and AK-47s for civilian use, limiting ammunition magazines to no more than 10 rounds, and fingerprinting for those who purchase guns were among some of the changes speakers at the rally endorsed. Many also highlighted the need for federal action, noting that even though Illinois has strict gun laws, neighboring states do not.
Natalie Beglen of Burr Ridge stood in the crowd listening to the speakers as she held a sign she carried in Chicago at her first March For Our Lives rally in 2018. Like West, she was frustrated that little has changed since her first march.
“I know in Illinois we have better laws, but we need national laws. ... We need to close the loopholes,” Beglen said.
For Lauren Bates, Saturday’s rally was a first. The Michigan teacher was in town for a wedding and decided to attend the rally with other family members. Bates teaches at an elementary school in Oxford, where a 15-year-old student opened fire at Oxford High School on Nov. 30, killing four students and injuring seven others.
“I’ve never really been a part of something like this before,” Bates said. “But it’s important that people take action ... whether it’s marching or voting and being aware of who you are voting for.”
Bates and other teachers in the crowd expressed frustration over seeing gun violence play out over and over in schools.
As Gamboa talked to the crowd, she spoke of a national memorial dedicated to fallen teachers and the need for a new slab to add more names. She and others noted the routine lockdown drills at schools across the country as a result of gun violence.
“This time has to be different,” Gamboa said, urging the adoption of sensible gun laws. “This time educators are not going to accept the excuses.”