“End the silence! Stop gun violence!”
This was one of the chants echoed by protestors as they marched toward Gainesville City Hall Tuesday.
Dozens of protestors associated with Moms Demand Action walked from the Alachua County Public Schools District Office to City Hall in response to a new bill signed into law by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday that allows Floridians to carry a concealed loaded weapon without a permit.
The bill will go into effect on July 1, making Florida the 26th state to allow permitless carry.
Moms Demand Action is a grassroots movement of Americans fighting for public safety measures that protect people from gun violence. Members said the organization works to close the loopholes that jeopardize the safety of families and encourages a culture of responsible gun ownership.
After marching down University Avenue, protestors gathered at the steps of City Hall and delivered speeches to those in attendance.
Rebecca Darnell, the Alachua County Chapter of Moms Demand Action Local Legislative Lead, expressed anger as she spoke to the crowd, citing that more than 75% of Floridians opposed the bill.
“We are in a public health crisis,” Darnell says. “Guns are the No. 1 killers of children in America today. The permitless carry bill was opposed by 77% of Floridians, and yet the Republican supermajority passed it, and DeSantis signed it on Monday.”
Darnell and the speakers that followed continued to criticize DeSantis and Republicans, stating that they are not committed to protecting Floridians and that they care more about profits than the lives of children.
“It’s a little frightening where we are as a country, and where we are as a state,” Darnell says.
Among those at the protest was retired Rev. Milford L. Griner, who spoke to those assembled and made a call to action.
“Gun violence either directly or indirectly affects all of us,” Griner said. “And because it affects all of us, it will take all of us to make a difference.”
Griner is one of many survivors of gun violence to deliver remarks at the protest, with each sharing emotionally scarring stories.
“We all hear about mass shootings, and it’s traumatizing,” Darnell said. “But most of the gun deaths are not through mass shootings. They’re through community gun violence, suicides and so that’s what Alachua County and Gainesville need to concentrate on.”
In February, the Gainesville City Commission declared gun violence a “public health issue.”
Darnell has also helped coordinate a gun violence prevention team that is working with city officials, the Gainesville Police Department and the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office to encourage, develop, and promote programs that will reduce gun violence and gun deaths.
“Moms Demand Action is not anti-gun,” Darnell said. “We have gun owners; we have concealed carry permit owners that volunteer with the organization. We’re against gun violence and bad bills that enable more gun violence.”
Moms Demand Action members said they hope to grow their ranks and hold political leaders accountable at the federal and state level while voting out politicians who fail to keep the interests of those they serve in mind.