For an issue often portrayed as divisive, the recent push for increased gun control Saturday drew a large, diverse and like-minded crowd to Theis Park.
Just minutes from campus, thousands gathered to join March For Our Lives Kansas City, the local version of an event that spanned the nation. Area high schoolers organized the rally, following in the footsteps of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students who have been speaking out for the last month.
Danielle Dodd, a senior from North Kansas City’s Winnetoka High School, took the mic to recount the day she felt the same fear as those Parkland teens. It was March 14, and she had received an acceptance letter from her dream college. The excitement and pride quickly turned to horror, however, as her principal announced a school lockdown.
“In those ten minutes of darkness, I thought ‘I can’t die like this,’” Dodd recalled for an attentive audience. “Then I thought, ‘How many other people have thought that?’”
Those weren’t Dodd’s last thoughts, but she acknowledged that they could have been. If one message rang loudest at the march, it was a common, underlying worry: We could be next.
For UMKC freshman Abbey Higginbotham, headlines about mass shootings have become almost routine. To exemplify this, she and her friends arrived at the march with a sign that referenced Columbine, Aurora, Newton and other cities now synonymous with highly publicized gun violence.
“Growing up, I’ve always been surrounded by these kinds of shootings, everyone my age has,” she explained.
But, Higginbotham continued, Marjory Stoneman Douglas felt different.
“This last one hit me hard when the victim stood up for themselves. It made me realize that I also need to be doing something. That why I came [to the march] today.”
This need to do something is what brought unlikely allies together. The organizations present at Sunday’s rally included Grandparents Against Gun Violence, high school student governments and Indivisible KC. Representatives from Stand Up KC, a group fighting for a higher minimum wage, also attended, citing the connection between gun violence and poverty.
Even The Greeting Committee, a homegrown band that has reached nationwide acclaim, showed up to perform their hit song “Hands Down” in support of the cause.
The march’s organizers planned activities that took this diversity into account. In honor of the 17 lives lost in the Parkland shooting, attendees introduced themselves to 17 new people. Adults and teenagers paired up, with adults instructed to give a piece of advice and teenagers told to share one thing they want for their future.
Rachel Gonzalez, the youngest Missouri Democratic delegate in state history and a current freshman at Missouri Western State University, summed up this forward-looking perspective.
“I have dreams for my future that don’t include being shot on my college campus,” Gonzalez said.