March for Our Lives Arizona honors gun-violence victims, plans next steps on reforms

March for Our Lives Arizona members Jacob Martinez and Josie Wright (center) discuss voting and gun safety with Phoenix resident Jocelyn Saccuci at the Valley Metro light rail stop near the “Release the Fear” statue on Central Avenue in Phoenix. (Photo by Mara Friedman/Cronkite News)

March for Our Lives Arizona members approach pedestrians to discuss universal background checks, “red-flag laws” and safe storage laws in downtown Phoenix. (Photo by Mara Friedman/Cronkite News)

March for Our Lives Arizona collected shoes that belonged to victims of gun violence and displayed them at the “Release the Fear” statue. Included were photos of the victims and their stories. (Photo by Mara Friedman/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – As dusk fell Wednesday, activists with March for Our Lives Arizona placed sandals and shoes of people touched by gun violence at the base of the “Release the Fear” statue, cast from old firearms.

“After the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, it was time for me to step up and do something,” said Josie Wright, 17, of Scottsdale. “I was filled with frustration and wanted to channel that frustration into something.”

Throughout the day Wednesday, #endgunviolence demonstrations were held throughout the country, with the largest one held in Washington, D.C., where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer addressed the crowd.

This summer was the deadliest in U.S. history, with more than 26 mass shootings in which 126 people died. Months after the 2018 Valentine’s Day massacre at Stoneman Douglas High in Florida spawned the youth-led movement for gun law reforms, March for Our Lives are pushing for several measures, including a ban on assault weapons and the registration of all gun sales.

March for Our Lives Arizona is focusing on three areas: universal background checks for gun sales; laws requiring safe storage of weapons; and “red flag” protection orders to restrict access to guns for people at risk of harming themselves or others.

Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was a target of a 2011 Tucson shooting that killed six people and wounded 13, donated a pair of her shoes to March for Our Lives. The shoes were placed at the “Release the Fear” statue in downtown Phoenix. (Photo by Mara Friedman/Cronkite News)

Twelve states and Washington, D.C., require background checks on all gun purchases, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Jacob Martinez, a veteran leader of March for Our Lives Arizona, headed Wednesday’s rally at Roosevelt Street and Central Avenue, which included a call to register to vote to change gun laws. Martinez and other volunteers placed shoes at the base of “Release the Fear” to represent gun violence in all walks of life, including mass shootings, domestic violence and suicide.

Some volunteers said gun violence was personal for them.

“I had an uncle that was randomly shot at when he was delivering something to a gas station,” said Samia Muraweh, 19, of Mesa. “He survived, but things like that are still scary.”

The organizers also stressed that change will take time, and they seek gun controls, not gun bans.

“I think there should be some education about what own a gun really means,” Wright said.

Organizers also handled out stickers that people could scan to be directed to register to vote.

Muraweh encouraged voters to contact their local legislators to make their voices heard.

“If there is a way to make this better, I think we should find a way to improve it,” she said.

Social Justice Reporter, Phoenix
News Photographer, Phoenix