‘A school is supposed to be a safe place, not a shooting range’

Despite near freezing temperatures and rain, sleet and at times hail, more than a thousand people turned out in downtown Lexington on Saturday for a rally calling for an end to gun violence.

The event was planned to coincide with “March For Our Lives” events taking place across the country in the wake of recent school shootings in Parkland, Fla., and in Marshall County, Kentucky.

Organized by students, the rally drew a crowd that filled the courthouse plaza between Short and Barr streets, with many huddled under umbrellas and ponchos holding signs such as “Not One More” and “Protect Kids Not Guns.” Several signs called for voting out political leaders who have received support from the National Rifle Association, which opposes increased regulation of firearms.

Leni Broady and Radhika Sharma, two students from Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, implored lawmakers to take action with the refrain, “do something.”

“Of the 32 school shootings this year, we’ve housed two, one of which was here in Lexington, at Frederick Douglass High School,” Sharma said. “As you can probably imagine, we feel great anxiety while attending school.”

“A school is supposed to be a safe place, not a shooting range,” Broady said.

Another student, Shelby Howard of Lafayette High School, described the pain of losing her big brother Sean to gun violence.

“I’m 17 years old, I’m a junior in high school and my friends and I have started saying ‘stay safe’ instead of ‘see you later’ because there’s no guarantee that we will live to see another day,” Howard said. “I should be figuring out who I am, not grieving the loss of my brother, who was only 19 years old. We need to act now and make a change. I’m not willing to lose another family member or friend or my own life due to gun violence.”

Community activist Anita Franklin, whose son, Antonio, was shot and killed in 2014, praised the young people who organized marches and rallies. Her advice: “Run for office.”