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March For Our Lives: Hundred walk for gun law changes

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Area residents participate in a local "March For Our Lives" event in Elizabeth City on Saturday. Nearly 100 people took part in the march which began at Mariners' Wharf Park and moved through the downtown before ending back at the park. The local march was held in conjunction with a global event held on Saturday to advocate for changes to gun laws and safer schools. For more photos from the event, visit dailyadvance.com.

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Hundreds of thousands of people across the globe marched in “March For Our Lives” events on Saturday in response to a plague of repetitive and deadly gun violence, including nearly 100 in Elizabeth City.

“It’s absolutely insane,” Emma Bonner said of deadly school shootings such as the one in Parkland, Fla., that killed 17 last month.

Bonner spoke at Mariners’ Wharf Park as marchers gathered before making a trek through Elizabeth City’s downtown, many carrying signs promoting new gun control measures that have, so far, found little traction with congressional Republicans.

Bonner said she’s a retired school principal with a long history of marching for important causes, whether in support of Martin Luther King Jr. or, more recently, the Women’s March in January. She decided to step out again because she wants schools to be safe, she said.

“It’s all about the children,” Bonner said.

Tony and Karen Howell, of Elizabeth City, expressed similar sentiments. They’re grandparents and they want safer schools too, they said when asked why they joined Saturday’s march.

“It seems like the situation is getting worse,” Tony said, expressing concerns about the availability of the AR-15, an easy-to-use, semi-automatic rifle used by gunmen in Parkland and other mass shootings.

Karen added she also wants to see more counseling and other supports for students. Educators need to be able to build a rapport with students and offer resources to help them through mental health or other issues, she said.

Another marcher, Ercmy Tillmon, said changes are “definitely” needed in the nation’s gun laws. There should be more restrictions to getting guns, but they shouldn’t be banned, he said, alluding to concerns among some gun owners that new laws could go too far.

Tillmon also said he opposes arming teachers, a solution conservative lawmakers have suggested, but supports having more security personnel such as school resource officers on school campuses.

Gun control was a personal issue for one of Saturday’s marchers, who declined to give her name but said she was a Camden Middle School student. When she was attending elementary school in Virginia Beach, the marcher said a gunman ran by the school and triggered a lockdown. While no one at the school was hurt, the student said the experience helps her relate to Parkland students, several of whom are spearheading the “March For Our Lives” events and demanding more gun control.

“It should not be this easy to kill someone,” she said, adding she supports stricter background checks for firearm purchases and age restrictions on buying semi-automatic or fully automatic rifles.

Joseph Persico, vice president of Northeast NC Progressives and one of the march’s organizers, said he was happy with the turnout. Nearly 100 people both young and old joined in the demonstration.

“I’m happy to see people step up for what they believe in,” Persico said.

An educator himself, he also said he opposes arming teachers.

“Even with training, teachers would not be prepared for that,” Persico said. He also said that putting more guns in schools would “add danger,” not reduce it.

March organizers also collected signatures for a “March For Our Lives” petition in support of stricter gun laws.

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