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Marching for global change; Downtown rally in response to school shootings

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Roswell youth and adults wave signs and chant slogans to passers by during the “March for Our Lives” rally downtown Saturday morning. Organized by Roswell Indivisible, the local march was part of a global movement, with hundreds of rallies planned worldwide. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

As the local part of a global movement, about 60 people participated in a March for Our Lives rally downtown Saturday morning in response to school shootings in the United States.

Shouting “Protect Our Schools, Not Our Guns” and “Enough,” and carrying hand-painted signs reading “Students Demand Action” and “Arm Us with Books not Guns,” the local group gathered at Pioneer Plaza and marched along North Main Street and around the Chaves County Courthouse for a couple of hours. The event was organized by the Roswell Indivisible political group and included a handful of youth.

“I just think gun violence is a really important issue that we need to address, certainly our generation,” said Briana Calciano, a Sidney Gutierrez Middle School student.

The March for Our Lives movement grew from the student-led protests and political activism in the United States that have resulted following the deaths of 17 teens and teachers at a Parkland, Florida, high school in February, the 18th recorded gun-violence incident at a U.S. school in 2018.

The main March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C. was expected to draw thousands of people, according to various news media reports. High school students from Aztec and Santa Fe, New Mexico, were among those who traveled to the nation’s capital to participate. Worldwide, 800 marches were planned.

The Roswell Indivisible group has proposed five legislative changes to reduce gun violence in schools. They include providing funding for research on gun violence, digitizing gun sale records, banning high-capacity ammunition clips, banning and buying back assault guns, and closing loopholes regarding purchases at gun shows or by so-called “straw buyers,” people who buy guns on behalf of those barred from ownership.

“We are not opposed to gun owners,” said event media coordinator Flo Wells. “We just think semi-automatics are not something that civilians need.”

Middle school student Alyssa Smith agreed with that position, saying that her aims included “stricter gun laws so that not everyone could get a gun that could hurt a bunch of people in a short amount of time.”

Evie Palmer of Berrendo Middle School said she thought the views voiced by students at the rally represented the majority view of youth. “Everyone wants to feel safe in their school,” she said.

No one countering the March for Our Lives agenda appeared at the rally, although Wells said that some comments had been made to the group’s Facebook site suggesting that political opponents might attend.

Nationally, the debate over how to address gun violence at schools has taken divergent paths. Some are saying the answer is “hardening” of schools, making access to school facilities and grounds more difficult and arming teachers or staff with guns or other weapons.

Others are recommending a combination of measures that include increased school security safeguards, barring all guns from schools except by law enforcement, and a comprehensive public health approach that would more effectively identify and address troubled behaviors in school youth and community members.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.