By Sheldon Berkowitz, MD, FAAP, Children’s Minnesota
On a cold and windy March morning, about 20 pediatricians and pediatric residents joined with 20,000 other Minnesotans to rally against gun violence at the Capitol in the aftermath of the senseless deaths at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida six weeks earlier. This was the 30th mass shooting of 2018.
Tragically, 424 children aged 0-17 have been killed or injured by a firearm so far this year. Many of us carried signs with ”Pediatricians Against Gun Violence” and received a lot of positive support for this signage.
The two highlights of the day were hearing from so many inspiring young people and being with such a large group of like-minded individuals who are tired of continued gun violence in our country and were trying to make a difference.
Although there were some supportive speeches by state legislators, they were overshadowed by the incredible voices of young people, including four students from Stoneman Douglas who were in Minnesota with their hockey team for a tournament. Not only were these young people, some as young as 14 years old, poised and eloquent – but the message they delivered was amazing and sad.
Enough is enough! One after another they spoke about their experiences at their high school and the friends they had lost. They, and other young people, also spoke about their hope and need for change and their plans to help mobilize other young people to register to vote as they turn 18 years old and to make a difference at the polls this November and going forward.
Although a variety of bills were proposed at the Minnesota Legislature this term, including banning “bump” stocks, enhancing universal backround checks and allowing law enforcement and family members to ask a court to ban a person from possessing firearms if they pose a threat – none were passed. As we heard at the rally, we must all continue to push for common sense laws to prevent further gun violence – both by talking to our own legislators and if needed, by voting to get people into the legislature that will help pass these bills.