‘How many must die?’ In shadow of school shootings, community demands change

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    Approximately 300 people braved cold temperatures to attend the “A Rally of Hope: Together We Will Reduce Gun Violence” event at Edmonds-Woodway High School Monday. Attendees expressed grief over the recent school shooting at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 people dead — and shared their goal of strengthening community resolve to not let it happen again.

    Speakers included organizers Georgia Leckie and Jane Weiss, Edmonds City Council President Mike Nelson, and retired KOMO-TV reporter and anchor Bob Throndsen.

    “It’s devastating to see so many of you here, because that means another tragedy has occurred.”  said Courtney Wooten of the Edmonds Neighborhood Action Coalition. “We’re here for a rally for hope. We know that the events that occurred in Florida, the events that have been occurring all over our nation, should stop and must stop, and we’re here to put a stop to them.”

    Organizer Jane Weiss lost her niece, Veronika, in the Santa Barbara school shooting almost four years ago. “I re-live that experience every time there’s a shooting,” she said. “SPU. Marysville. Roseburg. Mukilteo. Burlington. Charleston. San Bernardino. Orlando. Las Vegas. Sutherland Springs. And now Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Too many families. 17 more families that will never see their loved ones again. For their families, their extended families, their classmates, their friends and acquaintances: This tragedy will never — I promise you — never be over.”

    Retired KOMO anchorman Bob Throndsen told the crowd that “as a reporter, I didn’t speak out on this. My job was to tell the news. Today, I’m retired. What I really am is a husband, a father, a grandfather. And after watching one of the stories the other night, I just went nuts.

    “So I jotted something down…’How many must die in gun violence? How many children? How many adults? How many families must be torn apart? How many communities must be shattered? How many? Were the 26 children and teachers in Newtown, Connecticut, not enough dead for you? And now the 17 dead in Florida. Are they not enough? Tell us, our lawmakers and our lobbyists: Tell us. We want to know: How many will we sacrifice to bullets on the altar of greed and power? How many must die before you find the guts or the decency to do something? Do you have any guts? Do you have the decency? Do you even want to get involved? Tell us what it will take for you to act.'”

    Councilmember Nelson told the crowd. “It is right to demand change, to be that change. It is right for our children to speak the truth. (It is right) to ask, ‘Are guns more precious than kids?’ It is right to limit who has access to them. It is right to limit the age of who can buy them. It is right to keep weapons of war out of the hands of our children.”

    From the high school, the crowd marched to College Place Elementary to lay down flowers and light candles to honor victims of school and mass shootings. Along the way, motorists showed support by honking horns and waving to the marchers.

    When asked for her idea of a successful rally, organizer Georgia Leckie said, “No more walking, no more talking. Action. Let’s get this thing rolling. Let’s talk to everybody we can in our political world to tell them we will not accept people dying at churches, at schools. As Americans, we have some shame in letting it go too far and too long.”

    — Story and photos by David Carlos

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