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Empty sneakers, empty colleges: U.S. gun law activists begin two days of theater

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Tom Mauser got here to the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday wearing grey Vans sneakers, the identical ones his 15-year-old son Daniel wore when he was killed by two gunmen at Colorado’s Columbine High School in 1999 together with a dozen different folks.

Mauser was one of a handful of gun management activists and volunteers who braved a frigid March morning to put out about 7,000 pairs of sneakers on the U.S. Capitol garden as a makeshift memorial to American kids killed by gun violence.

Their intention, just like the 1000’s of college students throughout the nation who plan to stroll out of their lecture rooms for 17 minutes on Wednesday morning, was to place extra strain on state and federal lawmakers to tighten guidelines on gun possession.

“There’s nobody in those shoes, it’s like the emptiness in our hearts from gun violence,” mentioned Mauser, 66, of Littleton, Colorado.

The memorial, organized by Avaaz, a U.S.-based civic group, and the National School Walkout, organized by the activists behind the Women’s March in Washington, are half of a grass-roots motion that grew out of the killing of 17 college students and employees at a Florida highschool a month in the past.

“I think we’re in the middle of a cultural change in the United States. The majority of Americans want a change in gun laws, and a majority of gun owners want change,” mentioned Emma Ruby-Sachs, deputy director of Avaaz.

Many of the proposals favored by gun management advocates, together with a ban on assault-style weapons and the closing of loopholes on requiring background checks earlier than gun purchases, are fiercely opposed by the National Rifle Association and its supporters.

The 7,000 pairs of donated footwear, organized facet by facet in a trapezoid form exterior the Capitol, signify each particular person youthful than 18 who has been killed by a firearm because the 2012 bloodbath on the Sandy Hook elementary faculty taking pictures in Newtown, Connecticut. Actresses Susan Sarandon and Bette Midler, and speak present host Chelsea Handler had been amongst shoe donors.

Activists set up 7000 sneakers on the garden in entrance of the U.S. Capitol on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. March 13, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Thayer


About 1,300 folks beneath the age of 18 are killed by gunfire within the United States yearly, in accordance with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Wednesday, college students will once more take middle stage within the political theater over weapons that has gripped the nation because the Feb. 14 taking pictures at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

The nationwide walkout will final 17 minutes, starting at 10 a.m. native time, to commemorate the 17 victims who misplaced their lives within the Florida bloodbath. It was the deadliest faculty taking pictures since 20 kids and 6 adults had been shot useless at Sandy Hook greater than 5 years in the past.

The walkout has received the help of many faculty districts and civil rights organizations, together with the American Civil Liberties Union. More than 2,500 walkouts are scheduled throughout the nation, in accordance with the organizer’s web site, together with at Marjory Stoneman and Columbine excessive colleges.

Mauser, a retired Colorado Department of Transportation worker, has attended dozens of gun-control demonstrations because the Columbine bloodbath. But he has grown cautiously optimistic concerning the prospects for change as a result of of the brand new pupil involvement.

“These kids, it’s their lives. They’re not going to be distracted about Russia, about other things,” Mauser mentioned.

The shoe memorial is reminiscent of a monument on the Danube River close to the Hungarian Parliament in Budapest commemorating 1000’s of folks, together with Jews, killed by fascists within the 1940s.

Many Canadian cities have marked the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women on Dec. 6 with related “shoe memorials.”

Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; Editing by Frank McGurty and Bernadette Baum

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