Moms Demand Action rally in Jacksonville part of national movement

Demonstrators chant 'Enough,' call on Congress to pass gun safety laws

By Jennifer Ready - Reporter, Quan Nguyen, News4Jax intern, Jenese Harris - Reporter/anchor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - One of the more than 100 rallies held across America this weekend by two gun control advocacy groups was held Saturday at the Duval Couty Courthouse.

Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America want Congress to pass legislation requiring background checks on all gun sales and a strong gun violence prevention law, also known as a red flag law.

More than 50 people held signs and chanted, "Enough," trying to spread their message in downtown Jacksonville.

"We want to send a message today to our senators -- to Sen. (Marco) Rubio and Sen. (Rick) Scott -- that we need the background check bill that’s sitting on Mitch McConnell‘s desk passed," said Chryl Anderson, of Mom Demands Action.

The organizations are also spending more than $1 million on digital and TV ads aimed at key Republican senators, such as McConnell, the Senate majority leader, during the August recess.

The nationwide rallies come following mass shootings in Gilroy, California; El Paso, Texas; and Dayton, Ohio.

Moms Demand Action was formed after the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in 2012. Many of those active in the group have experienced loss from gun violence in their own families.

Among those at the Jacksonville rally were students who now regularly go through active shooter drills at their schools.

Josie Steele, 14, knows the drill all too well.

“Hide or try to barricade the door if you are alone and, for some reason, if you’re in the bathroom, get to the nearest classroom. Just run away from the gunshots," the Fernandina Beach Middle School student said.

"We’re on lockdown, and my parents were definitely talking to me about precautions and just being safe, but I shouldn’t be scared," student Malia Appleby said.

There was some tension at the Jacksonville rally when the gun control supporters encountered a group of counterdemonstrators in support of gun rights, but there were no confrontations.

“I respect their patriotism. I respect their activism. I just don’t respect their solution," counterdemonstrator Foster Coker said.

Florida passed a red flag law after the mass shooting last year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The law allows guns to be taken away from people who may pose a threat to themselves or others.

Other states have passed similar laws and some lawmakers, including Scott, support making a similar, federal law.

Coker said he opposes such a law because he and his wife survived an armed home invasion five years ago because he had a weapon.

"Taking away the rights of citizens who have committed no crime, like these red flags laws want to do, is not the answer. Taking away the way my family has to protect ourselves is not the answer."

While both sides agree they can't bring back the lives lost from recent mass shootings, they hope to see a decrease in gun violence for future generations.

"My little brother would be afraid to go to Walmart the next time. Like, he thought that, who knows, maybe there could be someone dangerous, and that's horrible. He's 9 years old, and he shouldn't have any of those thoughts," Steele said.

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