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Thousands of MN Students Protest Gun Violence

About 500,000 people, including many students from Minnesota, participated in Saturday's March For Our Lives. (Vuvanhahung/Flickr)
About 500,000 people, including many students from Minnesota, participated in Saturday's March For Our Lives. (Vuvanhahung/Flickr)
March 26, 2018

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Advocates for tougher gun control made their voices heard loud and clear this weekend when tens of thousands gathered across Minnesota as part of nationwide protests.

The March For Our Lives has been spearheaded by young people sparked into action by February's shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 dead.

Reverend Nancy Bence is the executive director Protect Minnesota, a group that advocates for gun safety. She says the tragedy finally pushed a lot of people into action.

"I think this last shooting somehow stepped on that nerve in America that needs to be stepped on to get regular, reasonable people who maybe haven't gotten involved, involved," she explains.

There were at least 13 marches in Minnesota on Saturday, and Gov. Mark Dayton even declared it 'March For Our Lives Day.'

Yet Reverend Bence points out that most gun-control measures have made no headway in the GOP-controlled Minnesota Legislature - including Senate File 1261, which would require background checks for private gun sales and transfers.

"Every single student and adult in this country is asking for universal criminal background checks, which of course that bill has stalled at our Legislature," she laments.

Still, Bence - whose organization led one of a number of student bus trips from Minnesota to Washington, D.C., for the main March For Our Lives event - says she is thankful for the progress that students have made in such a short time.

"We applaud the students, we are in awe of the students who have in a matter of weeks done what those of us who've been in gun violence prevention for a long time have not managed to do," she says.

Bence believes there is hope for passage of meaningful gun-law reform in Minnesota and calls the legislative schedule "arbitrary."

Elizabeth Braun, Public News Service - MN