By Keith Coffman
LITTLETON, Colo. (Reuters) – Colorado gun control activists rallied on Thursday near Columbine High School, calling for an end to gun violence one day before the 19th anniversary of the massacre there and a planned nationwide student walkout.
The roughly 200 demonstrators who gathered in the Denver suburb of Littleton on a windy afternoon included a survivor of the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida that left 17 dead.
The walkouts and drive to sign up voters are aimed at pressuring U.S. politicians to enact tighter restrictions on gun sales in the run-up to November’s mid-term congressional elections.
“The idea is to unite and empower survivors, to stand together,” said Emmy Adams, an 18-year-old senior at nearby Golden High School.
On April 20, 1999 two Columbine seniors killed 12 of their classmates and a teacher before committing suicide. Since then mass shootings have occurred with shocking frequency across the United States.
Among the speakers at the “Vote for Our Lives” event were Parkland High School student Carlitos Rodriguez, who told the crowd that politicians would listen if their seats were at stake.
Students from more than 2,600 schools and institutions are expected to walk out of class at 10 a.m. local time on Friday, organizers say.
Activists asked students to wear orange, the official color of the campaign against gun violence, and observe a 13-second silence to honor the victims killed at Columbine.
Columbine has not held classes on April 20 since the massacre, a district spokeswoman said, so there would be no walkout at the school. Students were encouraged to take part in community service.
The latest national rally comes more than a month after tens of thousands of students from some 3,000 schools participated in the #ENOUGH National School Walkout to demand that lawmakers seek tighter gun control regulations.
It also follows “March For Our Lives” rallies in cities across the United States on March 24 that were some of the biggest U.S. youth demonstrations for decades, with hundreds of thousands of young Americans and their supporters taking to the streets to demand tighter gun laws.
Dudley Brown, president of the Colorado-based National Association for Gun Rights, said the gun-control movement seeks to have the government take away rights, “precisely opposite of what the civil rights activists did in the 1960s.”
“The main objective of these students is to ban firearms completely, and confiscate the firearms of law-abiding Americans,” Brown said. “We will oppose them at every step.”
(Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)