(AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Gun control activists, including Parkland survivor David Hogg, marched 50 miles to the headquarters of gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson, Thursday morning.
The march was relatively small, as the Associated Press (AP) reports, only about 40 students and gun control supporters were in attendance.The group of marchers were protesting gun violence, gun manufacturers, and the National Rifle Association.
According to the AP, David Hogg addressed the marchers before the event, reminding them the importance of electing gun control politicians, saying, “The kids of America have to stand up when our irresponsible politicians won’t. We’re here to elect morally just leaders that will protect us as Americans.”
Protesters marched on Smith & Wesson because the company manufactured the semiautomatic AR-15 rifle that the Parkland mass shooter used to murder 17 students and teachers. Smith & Wesson firearms have been used in previous mass shootings, as well. Shooters used an AR-15 manufactured by the company in the San Bernardino terror attack–an attack that the AP merely described as a “shooting at a California holiday party”–and the Aurora, Co. mass shooting at a movie theatre.
Manuel Oliver, a parent of 17-year-old Joaquin Oliver, another victim of the Parkland shooting, told the AP that it was “ironic” that Smith & Wesson couldn’t sell the weapon in the state where it has its headquarters, as Massachusetts has a ban on AR-15s.
This march isn’t the first time gun control activists and proponents have called for gun manufacturers to take responsibility for mass shootings. However, a 15-year-old high schooler explained to the AP that those protesting the company don’t necessarily want to see it leave the state. The student acknowledged that Smith & Wesson does employ a lot of people. What protesters are asking for is for the company to comply with Massachusetts’ ban on AR-15s, which went into effect in 2004.
“I understand it’s important to the city and it employs a lot of people,” said Nate Lapointe, a 15-year-old high school junior from West Springfield. “But that doesn’t give them a free pass on selling weapons that are used to commit mass murder. At some point, we have to hold them accountable.”
Organizers for Thursday’s “50 Miles More” march say they specifically want the gun-maker, which changed its parent company name to the American Outdoor Brands Corp. in 2016, to stop making weapons outlawed under Massachusetts’ 2004 Assault Weapons Ban.
That law, which mirrors a federal ban that expired that year, prohibits the sale of certain military-style weapons, like Connecticut-based Colt’s AR-15 and Italian gun-maker Beretta’s AR70, as well as copycat versions of them.
Gun control proponents and the Democratic Party are continuing their attempts to make gun control a significant issue for voters as they head to the polls in November. They hope the American people have had enough of politicians who don’t support their political agenda.