by Mike Knaak
Seeking solutions to gun violence, about 300 people participated in Sartell’s March for Our Lives Saturday, March 24.
The demonstration, organized by Angie Trulson of Sartell, started with a rally at Sartell City Hall before marchers traveled more than a mile to First United Methodist Church where some marchers lit candles in memory of gun violence victims.
Before the march started, Trulson, who’s brother died in a shooting at his workplace, asked marchers to gather in a circle and hold hands for a moment of silence.
“We as a country are full of smart people who will come together with solutions and compassion,” Trulson said.
The Sartell march was one of more than 800 events organized around the world by students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people died in a shooting Feb. 14. Organizers estimated that between 500,000 and 800,000 participated in the Washington, D.C., march while between 18,000 and 20,000 gathered for the march in St. Paul, the largest of 13 protests planned across Minnesota.
The Sartell march attracted people from around central Minnesota.
“Change needs to happen,” said Sarah Pasela, Big Lake, who attended the march with her son and husband. “We adults haven’t been able to do much. Now we’re taking the lead from students. We need to listen to their voices.”
Many marchers spoke of their frustration with what they see as a lack of action by government after mass shootings that began with Columbine more than 20 years ago.
“You see all this going on and you want to get something done,” said Hanna Haeg, St. Joseph.
“As a college student I think it’s ridiculous this keeps happening. It should have ended with Columbine,” said Katelyn Gill, a St. Cloud State University student from Sioux Falls, S.D.
“I work in a preschool and I want to support the kids. I want this to end,” said Sheri Olson, Zimmerman.
The recent federal budget approved by Congress and signed by President Trump includes some gun-safety measures including strengthening the background check database and allowing public health research on gun violence. The Department of Justice has proposed regulations to band “bump-stocks,” accessories that turn semi-automatics into fully automatic weapons. But expected legal challenges may find that proposed rule is outside the scope of current gun laws.
Gun-safety advocates say those measures don’t go far enough and they want tougher laws to ban assault-style weapons, high-capacity magazines and mandate universal background checks.
At the Minnesota Legislature, Republicans have backed improved school safety but have blocked proposals to restrict gun access.
Gov. Mark Dayton wants expanded background checks, the age to buy assault weapons raised to 21 and police to have power to take guns away from people who may harm themselves or others. A Republican-controlled house has turned down bills backed by Democrats.
As the last marchers left city hall, Trulson looked ahead.
“Now it’s time for others to take the reins, get involved and make a difference,” she said.
Each marcher received a handout that listed next steps for additional action. The handout listed the contact information for state and federal lawmakers and details on how to get involved with advocacy groups.
“This is not an anti-gun protest,” Trulson said before the event. “It’s an end-gun-violence peace rally. We can collectively begin to heal the wounds we’ve experienced individually and as a culture by standing with others to say ‘This is not OK with us, we demand change.’”
Reacting to Saturday’s turnout, Trulson said, “This is just the beginning and we have the chance to keep the momentum going. The positive response from passersby with thumbs up, smiles and waves, and even someone who pulled over to spontaneously join the march speaks volumes in fulfilling the intent of the movement.”