Hundreds of people gathered at a Moms Demand Action meeting for gun control at Kirkland Middle School on Feb. 25. Aaron Kunkler/Redmond Reporter

Hundreds of people gathered at a Moms Demand Action meeting for gun control at Kirkland Middle School on Feb. 25. Aaron Kunkler/Redmond Reporter

Hundreds turn out for Eastside gun-control meeting

Hundreds of people gathered in Kirkland on Sunday to rally for increased gun control.

The meeting was put on by the Washington state chapter of Moms Demand Action Eastside in the Kirkland Middle School cafeteria.

Seats were scarce as around 300 people squeezed in for the presentation. Many attendees wore red shirts with the organization’s name on the front and “Everytown for gun safety” printed on the back.

The slogan heralds back to the group’s origins following the 2012 Newtown shooting, which left 26 people dead, most of them children.

Erin Cizmas, head of the Eastside group, addressed the crowd.

“The tide has officially turned,” she said. “People everywhere are banding up to say enough is enough.”

The turnout for the Sunday meeting was even more impressive considering the previous one had 11 people in attendance, Cizmas said.

“We refuse to accept that this is the new normal,” she said.

Renewed attention to reforming gun-control laws has emerged after the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 students were murdered by the alleged suspect, Nikolas Cruz.

It has sparked a national response with high school students often leading the conversation.

There have been renewed calls nationally to ban rifles similar to the AR 15, semi-automatic weapons that have been used in many mass shootings.

At the Kirkland meeting on Sunday, the brother of one of the women who was shot during the shooting in Las Vegas last year spoke.

That shooting left 58 people dead and 851 injured as a man named Stephen Paddock used weapon modification called a bump stock to pump more than 1,100 rounds into a concert audience. Bump stocks use the recoil of a weapon to significantly increase the rate of fire for semi-automatic assault weapons.

The speaker described what happened to his sister the night she was shot in the back.

“This is uniquely American, you know; no other developed nation deals with this stuff,” he said. “We’re tired of watching innocent people die.”

When he pointed her out in the audience, the rest of the crowd at Sunday’s meeting rose and gave her a standing ovation.

State Sen. Manka Dhingra also spoke about the Legislature’s efforts to enact gun-control measures.

These include a proposed ban on bump stocks that passed the state House and will be sent back to the Senate for approval.

Another bill that would allow people to put themselves on a “do-not-buy” list for firearms sales is also being hashed out in Olympia. The rule would keep those on the list from being able to legally purchase firearms and was designed with people suffering from depression or other mental illnesses in mind.

A further bill would ban people convicted of domestic violence from buying guns.

State Democrats hope to eventually raise the age limit for buying all guns to 21, which is the age limit for buying pistols.

Anyone 18 years of age can buy a wide range of longarms, including AR 15s, in the state.

Other measures Dhingra discussed included the Senate allocating money in its budget toward clearing the backlog of pistol transfers in the state as well as assembling a task force to study school shootings and how to prevent them.

Moms Demand Action has been influential in getting previous measures passed, including the universal background checks that are currently law in Washington.

They also helped pass the ban on high-capacity magazines in California.

Local students are also getting involved in the debate.

Jaquelin, 19, is a junior at The Overlake School and will be involved with planning a walk-out in March in honor of the 17 students killed in Florida. (Her last name was withheld for privacy reasons.)

The group is planning further activities, including a letter-writing campaign to state representatives as well as educational panels at the school.

Jaquelin is hoping to see increased legislation surrounding assault weapons, and rifles like AR-15s, increased background checks and restrictions on high-capacity magazines.

However, she wants students with different perspectives to weigh in on the discussion too and have a conversation.

“I think, obviously, our country is polarized as we see in both Congress and just geographically,” she said. “…Hopefully the need for change is established.”

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