Montgomery Students Hold Gun Violence Vigil Near White House

Montgomery Students Hold Gun Violence Vigil Near White House

Around 100 attended event Thursday night

| Published:
Vigil resized

Around 100 students, parents and other advocates gathered near the White House Thursday following a pair of shootings last weekend in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

Dan Schere

Montgomery County Public Schools students, parents and other gun-control advocates who gathered for a vigil near the White House Thursday night say they are angry and fearful.

Yet some remain hopeful of action to curb a disturbing trend of mass shootings across the United States.

Around 100 people gathered in Lafayette Park Thursday in response to shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, over the weekend, killing 32 people.

The student advocacy group Montgomery County Students for Change held the vigil.

Speakers read poems and stories expressing anger at the gun violence occurring nationally, and locally in Washington. One D.C. public school teacher said, “I did not become a teacher to keep burying my students.”

Toward the end, the group held candles and sang “Amazing Grace.”

Among those in the crowd was Matt Post, the 2017-18 student member of the Montgomery County Board of Education, who is entering his sophomore year at Yale University. Post said residents, and not just politicians, have a responsibility to take action on gun violence.

“I think when 96 people die a day in a country and nothing is done about it, it’s not just politicians and leaders, but all of us. We have to do as much as we can, and until action is taken, we have to continue coming to things like this and speaking up,” he said.

Asked if he thought two most recent shootings would lead to any noticeable change, he pointed out that a number of states have passed gun-control laws. He said Maryland residents should be concerned about handgun restrictions recently rolled back in Baltimore City.

“Change is possible at the local level, but we have to continue holding our leaders, accountable regardless of what letter is next to their name,” he said, referring to party affiliation.

Rebecca Heimbrock, a Dayton native, has been attending Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring and will soon move to Virginia. She said in an interview after the event that she was already angry on Saturday about the El Paso shooting, but her emotions became even stronger after she heard about the Dayton shooting.

“It was my hometown, and I was just so upset and angry. I felt the pain of everyone in my community,” she said.

May Canning, a 2019 graduate of Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, said she is preparing to attend college in Canada. She sees a striking differences in the mentality toward gun violence between the two countries.

“It’s interesting going to these events and then thinking about moving [between] countries, because a lot of my Canadian friends don’t understand the context of these things that happen. You don’t think about the fact that other countries don’t have active shooter drills,” she said.

Canning said she has a hard time not thinking about how to prepare for an active shooter situation.

“You walk into a room and you think about where your exits are, where a safe place is to sit and how you get your family out the door. … I worked at a summer camp and every single day, I thought about, if someone were to walk through this door, where would I take my kids?” she said.

Ella McGrath, who attends Wootton High School in Rockville, said the number of mass shootings has made tragedies seem like the status quo.

“The sad thing is, it’s not surprising anymore. We’re so used to it by now. It’s just frustrating,” she said.

But her mother, Amy Yontef-McGrath, a member of the advocacy group Moms Demand Action, said she remains optimistic that politicians will change their minds about gun control.
“You can’t run for office now without acknowledging gun violence. I think it’s on the table and the time is now,” she said.

Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com

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