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Group attending downtown event seeks gun law changes
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Marissa Pyle, a junior at the University of Georgia, speaks to a crowd before introducing other speakers Saturday, April 7, 2018, in Gainesville. - photo by David Barnes

A crowd gathered Saturday, April 7, in Gainesville’s Roosevelt Square for a “March for Our Lives” town hall event addressing gun control reform.

The event was organized by Indivisible Lumpkin and the McCall For All campaign. It featured Josh McCall and David Cooper, two Democratic candidates on the primary ballot for the 9th District House seat held by Republican Rep. Doug Collins.

The event was organized by Marissa Pyle, a junior at the University of Georgia, held in response to Parkland survivor David Hogg’s call to action on gun legislation.

“I personally know people that have been involved in three different shootings and know the families of two of the students that were killed at Parkland, so this topic is something very close to my heart,” Pyle said. “Before Gov. (Nathan) Deal signed the bill allowing concealed carry weapons on campuses in Georgia, I called him every single day to remind him that the law was before him.”

Several other concerned students came to support the cause, including Mallory Harris, a senior at UGA.

“I first got involved in the spring of 2016 after the bill was passed to allow guns on to university campuses,” Harris said. “I’ve stood with Moms Demand Action for a long time and organized the March For Our Lives rally at UGA and think.”

Lanier Tech student Steven Henry said he wants to help spread the word about gun violence.

“I was in middle school when Columbine happened, and at that age I was old enough to understand what was going on,” he said. “If gun control was more regulated, I feel like it would lead to the possibility that one less child could get a hold of a gun, and in turn, one less child fall victim to gun violence.”

The topic is also very close to Laura Colaninno, a campaign coordinator for the Hall County Democrats and former teacher.

“When I was a teacher, the thought of an active shooter situation was always on my mind,” she said. “Back then, the procedures were completely different. Although a lot of schools have improved security by utilizing student IDs and metal detectors today, that’s still not enough.”

“I don’t think any of us here are here to say ‘get rid of guns completely.’ There just needs to be a compromise,” said her husband, Andy Colaninno. “People enjoy target shooting as a sport, but if they don’t have a shooting range to go to and they set up targets in their backyard, the bullet could ricochet and hit a person or someone’s pet. There should be more shooting ranges in the U.S., which might help prevent some accidental casualties.”

Cyndy Jett, member of Clermont’s Town Council, agreed that the laws that are currently in place aren’t working.

“I don’t know how to feel,” she said. “I have 10 grandkids, and right after Parkland happened, I was driving around my 20-year-old grandson’s school campus with him and saw all those kids and thought a school shooting could happen anywhere, even here. We have to get our heads out of the sand and do something. There has to be a dialogue.”

Gary Ramey, president of local gun manufacturing company Honor Defense LLC, also came to check out the event.

“While everyone is very focused on gun control, I think the focus should be more on how we can keep our kids safe in general,” he said. “Guns aren’t the only weapon.”

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