VIRGINIA BEACH — On the one-week anniversary of the Municipal Center shooting and “National Gun Violence Awareness Day,” the 16-year-old Christian Kerlick and some of his peers endured the weather Friday to meet in the middle of Town Center here where they rallied for “common sense gun laws.”
“No matter what, this issue happens so we’re not going to let anything stop us from getting our voices heard and something gets done to resolve this issue,” Kerlick said.
Kerlick and three other student activists Arlyn Brown, Katelyn Monostori, and Jenna Sweatland worked together last year to start the South Hampton Roads chapter of March for Our Lives.
This year, they’ve partnered with Students Demand Action in response to the mass shooting on May 31 that left 12 people dead and four more wounded inside Building 2 at the city’s Municipal Center.
“It’s never going to be a good time. That shooting didn’t happen at a ‘good time,’ but when things happen, people need to act on them,” Kerlic said.
Among the dead were four engineers who worked to maintain streets and protect wetlands and three right-of-way agents who reviewed property lines. Others included an account clerk, a technician, an administrative assistant and a special projects coordinator.
Virginia Beach Police Chief Jim Cervera identified the shooter, who died in a gunbattle with police, as a longtime city employee who worked as an engineer in the Municipal Complex. The shooter sent an emailed resignation letter to his boss just hours before the shooting.
Key speakers Friday demanded “common sense gun laws” and action from legislators and included state lawmakers like Dels. Cheryl Turpin D-85, and Kelly Fowler D- 21.
Student activists like Mattie Anderton and Lucas Hallauer also spoke.
Anderton organized a “die-in” at the Town Center last year after shooting at Parkland, Florida.
She vowed this year will be her last protest.
“I am refusing to accept the idea that we will be here again next year, Anderton said. “No more, never again. We have declared war on gun violence and this time, we will win.”
After his speech, Hallauer read the name of each of the 12 victims “In the memory of Laquita Brown we have had enough. In the memory of Tara Gallagher we have had enough…”
Gov. Ralph Northam announced that July 9 is the date for the special session for members of the General Assembly to “engage in an open and transparent debate and that the bills brought before the legislature are put to a vote by the entire General Assembly.”
“I’ll be asking for votes and laws, not thoughts and prayers,” said Northam.
The date is set—on July 9, I will summon members of the Virginia General Assembly for a special session to address the emergency of gun violence in the Commonwealth. https://t.co/pecmXh4D3m
— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) June 7, 2019
Kerlick spoke before closing the rally with two minutes of silence, “none of this is possible without this community, our community,” he said. “This is our first step, let’s keep on walking.”
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