Before hundreds of thousands of people would gather on Pennsylvania Ave. to protest gun violence, a smaller rally took place nearby in a park on Capitol Hill. A 16-year-old girl named Lauren, whose boyfriend, Zaire Kelly, died from gun violence, gave a moving speech about the need for gun control. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton spoke about the gun violence that has been plaguing DC and Congress’ repeated attempts to undermine the District’s current gun legislation.
And Wilson senior Aaron King emceed the whole event.
King first started public speaking when he was 16 after his mom entered him and his sister in an oratorical contest. “My mom just put us in it…. and then we did pretty good,” he said. After his first competition, King discovered he had a knack for public speaking, so he participated in more and more contests and has spoken at numerous events.
The Rally for DC Lives was held on March 24 at Folger Park, just steps from Capitol Hill, home of a Republican Congressional majority that has taken steps to roll back DC’s gun laws.
Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, has tried twice to pass a bill that would allow 18 to 21-year-old DC residents to purchase weapons like an AR-15, even though he told Parkland students that he believes no 18-year-old should be able to own a rifle. Mayor Bowser and Congresswoman Norton have denounced the proposed bill.
After the DC rally ended, the assembled crowd marched to Pennsylvania Ave., where the national March For Our Lives took place.
King was the first to speak at the protest, and he addressed the crowd between each speaker. “We should not be focusing on the safety of students. Our focus should be on learning and graduating,” he said in the speech. Instead, he urged lawmakers to focus on the accessibility of guns to teenagers and on changing gun laws.
King got involved in the rally through Moms Demand Action, an organization that fights for gun reform. A member of Moms Demand Action knew King through his sister, “she knew I was a pretty good speaker,” he said. “So she thought I would be a good emcee for the DC rally.”
“I’ve been personally affected by gun violence,” King said. “I had a cousin I lost. His name was Kevin; he was shot and killed just trying to help a friend.” This inspired King to get involved with advocating for gun reform. “It’s good that we had the DC rally to show that DC plays a major role in this too, like we’re being affected,” he said.
Speaking at the rally was a great experience for King, and he hopes that more changes are made regarding gun control. “Hopefully we can keep this movement going. I can connect with some of the students [that spoke] so we can keep marching and do whatever to make sure… the laws are changed.”