Hundreds of people took to the streets on Saturday with signs in hand expressing their desire for change when it comes to gun control.
People of all ages met up at Yokuts Park, then marched down Empire Drive to Truxtun Avenue. Participants lined the sidewalk on Truxtun showing off their homemade signs that included phrases such as “gun control now” and “enough is enough.”
The march, organized by a few teens from Golden Valley High School, was part of a nationwide movement on Saturday that drew more than 1 million people advocating for stricter gun laws in light of school shootings such as the one last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida that left 17 dead.
“You guys should all be proud of yourselves for coming out here and for fighting for the kids that are in school right now,” Cindy Lopez, one of the organizers of the Bakersfield event, said prior to the start of the march. “We need change and we need it now.”
High school students Brianna Alcaraz and Elizabeth Reyes were just a few of the many teens and children that participated in the march.
“Even though this march likely won’t have an effect nationwide just yet, we just want to start small within our community and make a difference,” Alcaraz said. “Hopefully, it will get our political leaders thinking, ‘Hey, these are people that really want a change.’”
Change includes a desire to raise the legal age to own a gun from 18 to 21 years old. Marchers also are seeking more stringent background checks and some wish for a ban of semi-automatic and automatic weapons.
Reyes said that while in the past she never thought that a shooting could happen at school, seeing the increased frequency of shootings nationwide has made her more fearful and inspired her to take action.
“We don’t want this to happen to us or our friends,” she said. “No one wants to go through that. We’re tired of seeing the mass shootings.”
Valeria Garcia, an adult who attended the march, said she believes it’s the youth’s involvement in the gun control discussion this time that is having a greater impact and is urging more people to get involved.
“I absolutely love and adore that the students themselves are creating this movement,” she said. “We often undermine the ideas of teenagers, but I love that they are springing to action, essentially putting millions of people together across the United States.”
Lorena Torres came with her children to the march in support of stricter gun laws because she wants a safer school environment for them.
“I have kids in school and I’m afraid of what could happen to them,” she said. “When I was in school, we didn’t even really have to worry about lockdowns. Now, it’s become the norm.”
Regina Waggoner, a teacher with the Greenfield Union School District, said she’s frustrated with the fact that despite all of the school shootings that have happened over the years, there has been talk about reform by political leaders but little action.
“Everybody is praying and saying they’re sorry but nobody is doing anything,” she said. “How many kids have to die, how many have to be murdered before somebody does something instead of just saying, ‘Sorry, we want to pray for you’?”
Waggoner said she believes there’s a misconception among those who oppose gun control that those in favor of it want to take everyone’s guns away. She said that’s not the case for most who advocate for stricter gun laws.
“We’re not saying we don’t want there to be any guns, but there’s no reason for a semi-automatic weapon to be readily available for purchase,” she said. “My family are avid hunters, and they will tell you there’s no need to have an automatic weapon. Those are designed strictly for killing people.”
Waggoner said she’s hopeful that with teens getting involved in the gun control debate this time around, it will spark real change for the country.
“Finally the youth are standing up and being heard,” she said. “In just a few years, they’re going to be the ones voting, and they need to vote for change. They’re the ones who need to start it now.”