Hundreds of students, politicians, activists and community members rallied at UNC on Thursday, joining the national conversation about gun control and the prevention of mass shootings.
The UNC Rally for Our Lives was held at Polk Place and featured several speakers, including students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Students from UNC, Duke University and Elon University were among the rally’s speakers. Also taking a place at the podium were senators, representatives and leaders of community organizations such as Bull City United and the Raleigh-Apex chapter of the NAACP.
Voter registration tables lined the walkways of the quad, calling on voters to take action and go to the polls. At the end of the rally, a vigil was held to honor the victims of the Parkland shooting and all other victims of gun violence.
First-year Joshua Romero, one of the speakers during Thursday's rally, created a campus activist organization called UNC4MSD in support of the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Having grown up close to Parkland, he said he felt a responsibility to help those affected by the shooting.
“The tides are turning, and they will continue to turn,” Romero said. “And let me assure you — you do not want to be on the underside.”
Romero highlighted the goals of the anti-gun violence movement following the shooting in Parkland, Fla.
“We do not want to get rid of the second amendment,” Romero said. “But we do want regulations to make our community safer.”
Robert Schentrup, the brother of Parkland victim Carmen Schentrup, spoke at the rally and shared stories about his sister’s lovable personality, her humor and her dreams of discovering cures for diseases like ALS.
“I am standing here now telling her story of what could have been, instead of what was going to be,” Schentrup said. “No family should have to go through the tragedy of losing a child, especially to gun violence, an issue which is completely preventable.”
Speakers at the rally called for “common sense” gun legislation, which includes universal background checks, the reinstatement of the assault weapons ban and a ban on large-capacity magazines. Activists and politicians alike spoke on the urgency of this legislation and the power that voters have in the polls.
Jaclyn Corin, an activist and survivor of the Parkland shooting, was one of the many speakers who emphasized the power of a vote.
“Never allow them to put a special interest group in front of your life,” Corin said. “If they do, vote them out.”
North Carolina state Sen. Mike Woodard demanded an end to the “gun show” loophole, which exempts private sellers of firearms from performing background checks on buyers at secondary markets such as gun shows. He believes much of the common-sense gun legislation should have been in place years ago.
“Low-hanging fruit,” Woodard said, describing regulations such as banning bump stocks and raising the age at which people can buy guns.
North Carolina House Rep. Marcia Morey was met with extended applause when she tore up her NRA candidate questionnaire. She addressed the crowd, telling them to vote and to make their voices heard.
Senior Shannon Taflinger, one of the rally’s organizers, stood at a booth selling bracelets to benefit the families of the Parkland victims. She said she hopes the rally inspires people to vote in November. She believes that UNC’s large campus and social prominence sets UNC up to be an example for other schools.
“Our votes do have a large pull in North Carolina,” Taflinger said. “This is not a one-time thing.”
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