WASHINGTON: Thousands of people were expected to demonstrate across the United States on Saturday for tighter firearms laws to curb devastating gun violence plaguing the country.

Two horrific shootings last month — one at a Texas elementary school that killed 19 young children and two teachers, and another at a New York supermarket that left 10 Black people dead — sparked the call for the protests, which are planned at hundreds of locations.

But the problem of gun violence — which has killed more than 19,300 people so far this year in the United States, according to the Gun Violence Archive — goes far beyond high-profile mass killings, with most of those deaths due to suicide.

“After countless mass shootings and instances of gun violence in our communities, it’s time to take back to the streets,” March for Our Lives, which is organizing the demonstrations, said on its website.

“Demonstrate to our elected officials that we demand and deserve a nation free of gun violence,” it said.

March for Our Lives was founded by survivors of the shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, who organized a rally that drew hundreds of thousands of people to the nation’s capital in March 2018.

David Hogg, a founder and board member of the organization, has appealed for Americans of all political stripes to take part in the Saturday protests.

“Whoever you are, march with us... Gun owners, NRA members, Republicans, Democrats, independents, and people from all backgrounds are fed up and it is time we make Congress do something,” Hogg wrote in an opinion piece for Fox News the day before.

“If we can agree that killing children is unacceptable, then we need to either prevent people intent on killing from getting their hands on the guns they use or stop their intent to kill in the first place,” he said.

While frequent mass shootings spark widespread outrage in the United States, where a majority of people support tighter gun laws, opposition from many Republican lawmakers has long been a hurdle to major changes.

The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives passed a broad package of proposals this week that included raising the purchasing age for most semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21, but the party does not have the requisite 60 votes to advance it in the Senate.

A cross-party group of senators has also been working on a narrow collection of controls that could develop into the first serious attempt at gun regulation reform in decades.

The package would boost funding for mental health services and school security, narrowly expand background checks, and incentivize states to institute so-called “red flag laws” that enable authorities to confiscate weapons from individuals considered a threat.

But it does not include an assault weapons ban or universal background checks, meaning it will fall short of the expectations of President Joe Biden, progressive Democrats and anti-gun violence activists.


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