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EUGENE, Ore. - Around 6,500 people gathered at the Federal Courthouse in downtown Eugene on Saturday, March 24, to march in protest of gun violence in schools.
Community members of all different ages and backgrounds gathered, but the students were the organizers of the event. Students said this is a great way for them to raise awareness and make their voices heard. They said they may not be old enough to vote, but they are old enough to promote change in something that affects them.
"If we're old enough to be shot at schools then we're old enough to have an opinion about being shot at schools," said Emma Harden, one of the student leaders of the event.
Harden and other students said they wanted to make it clear that this wasn't a movement to take away guns, and that they're not against gun ownership, but they do hope to see responsible gun policies put in place.
For many people attending the march, those policies included stricter regulations on assault weapons. This included Eugene Police Commissioner and 23-year veteran, Marty Wilde.
"And I will tell you there are times I carried an assault rifle every day as part of my military duties. And they always put it back in the armory at the end of the day. We just don't have any reason to have those kinds of guns on our streets," Wilde said.
He said that he supports the idea of going to a shooting range if you want to shoot an assault rifle, but that the rifle should be locked up and left at that range. He said the most important thing to him is gun storage, as too many times people have been killed with other people's guns.
Survivors of past shootings were in attendance, and one was even a speaker. Betina Lynn is a survivor of the Thurston High School shooting in 1998. She was shot once in the back and once in the foot, and she said she has suffered nearly every day since.
"It wasn't just 1998 that we were suffering, we're still suffering in different kinds of ways. Sure, some things have gotten better, I'm not as reactive to certain kinds of things as I once was, but it still impacts my life right now almost 20 years later," said Lynn.
She said she wanted to begin this kind of activism 20 years ago after she was shot, but had a hard time building up steam and rallying people behind her. She said now she's happy to see the conversation changing and change hopefully on the horizon.
"And more people are talking about it, more people are talking about whatever the solution is. Something needs to change. This is ridiculous, our kids should not be slaughtered in their schools," Lynn said.
People began gathering at the courthouse for speeches and performances at 11 a.m. on Saturday. They marched down to Whirled Pies starting at noon.