By Mayor Martin J. Walsh
It was a scene similar to one Boston’s seen before. This past weekend, on a cold Saturday morning, tens of thousands of people gathered to kick off another march demanding national change. Except this time, we gathered at Madison Park Vocational High School in Roxbury, ready to start our route to the Boston Common. And this march was even more remarkable, because it had been created and organized by our students.
In fact, all throughout our nation, our young people are leading the charge and fighting for stricter gun control laws. At Boston’s March for Our Lives, the organization, the message, the passion — it started with our students, and our young people.
It’s hard to believe it’s been just over 5 weeks since the tragedy at Parkland. Here we were today, over 50,000 people strong at the Boston Common, demanding “enough is enough”. We were joined by millions of people marching at 140 sibling marches across the world. Students held signs saying, “The time is now”, “Protect kids not guns”, and “Books not bullets”. They chanted in unison, “This is what democracy looks like”. As Mayor, and as a fellow American, I was inspired by their words and their determination to be heard. I know I wasn’t the only one.
The national conversation on gun control has had a profound effect on our students. Last week, I met some of the Parkland survivors at the Institute of Politics at Harvard. They were on the road, spreading their message and helping other students take action in their own communities. They met with Boston and Cambridge high school students where they had honest and productive discussions on what to do about gun control. It was incredible: these students were taking on a major policy issue head on, while too many members of Congress choose to ignore it.
And we know that gun control works — as our state has proven. Massachusetts has the lowest gun death rate in the country. A recent Boston Globe study found that if each state had gun control laws similar to ours, 27,000 lives may have been saved.
In Massachusetts, our representatives in Washington are working to make our communities safer. Just this month, Commissioner Evans and I stood with Senator Markey as he introduced federal gun safety legislation that would incentivize states to adopt gun licensing standards similar to those in Massachusetts. It’s common sense gun reform, and creates safe and sensible policies for owning and buying guns.
In Boston, we are building safer communities every day. Together with the Boston Police Department, we host gun buyback programs, mentor teens who may be at risk, and have hosted several regional summits with cities and towns on how to improve gun safety. We’re sharing strategies and building relationships. We’re partnering with researchers and safety advocates, like Everytown for Gun Safety and Arms With Ethics.
We’re also engaging responsible gun owners. Anyone who says cities and towns are too divided to find common ground on gun policy is mistaken. We’re bridging divides between the different cultures and views we have across town, city, and state lines. If we can do this, so can the federal government.
But we know what we do in Boston, and what we do in Massachusetts, isn’t enough. Without the partnership of cities, states across the U.S., and the federal government, true change cannot happen. That’s why marches like Saturday’s are so important. Offering prayers to communities who have faced tragedy is our first action, but it can’t be our last. Protecting our people and communities must be our number one priority, always. The world keeps turning, but it doesn’t mean we just move on to the next story of the day. We can’t let this happen any longer.
This time, it’s going to be hard for our nation to forget — because our students will make sure we won’t.
Our hope for our young people is that they find a cause they are passionate about — something that drives them to call for change. I couldn’t be more proud of our students here in Boston, and the mobilized students all across the country. They weren’t just marching for themselves, but for all the innocent victims of gun violence whose voices have been silenced. They were marching for a brighter and safer future for everyone. I know they will continue to march and demand change for as long as it takes. And rest assured, Boston will be marching right beside them.