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Crowd pushes for gun control measures at March for our Lives rally in Gainesville
06122022 protest
More than 100 people gathered in Gainesville’s downtown square Saturday, June 11, to protest gun violence in America. - photo by Ben Anderson

More than 100 people gathered in Gainesville’s downtown square Saturday afternoon to protest gun violence in America. 

Speakers condemned Republicans for blocking legislation that would limit access to guns and urged everyone to vote blue. 

“There was almost nothing planned and people just wanted to get up and talk from their hearts,” said Laura Colannino who organized the protest. She lives in Flowery Branch and is running against Republican Kathy Cooper for the Hall County Commissioner District 1 seat. 

Colannino said there were about 125 attendees. The protest was one of hundreds nationwide organized by March for Our Lives, a group founded by student survivors of the 2018 high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people.

“It’s hard to have fun anymore,” a young woman who just graduated high school said into the megaphone. “I go out and I try to have fun with my friends, but I’m always looking around me making sure where my exits are, where I can be safe because I’m always scared that somebody’s going to come in with a gun.” 

A number of speakers directed their ire squarely at U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Athens, whose office is just a few blocks away. Clyde is a gun shop owner and has campaigned on protecting the second amendment. He is running against Mike Ford, chair of the Hall County Democratic Party, for the U.S. House 9th District. The winner will be decided in the Nov. 8 election. 

Hours after the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas on May 24 that killed 21 people — two teachers and 19 children — Clyde posted to Facebook criticizing the “illegal gun registry” maintained by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He promised to “protect Americans’ constitutional right to keep and bear arms.” 

“I don't see that as being insensitive at all because this is defending a constitutional right,” Clyde said when asked about the post, describing criticisms that it was insensitive or ill-timed as “character assassination.” 

His solution to shootings like the one in Uvalde? Arming school staff. He advocates for a single point of entry. “There should be multiple staff,” he said. “Depending on the size of the school, five, six, seven, 10, 12 that are trained … that have to qualify every year just like a law enforcement officer does.” 

Democrat KIm Floria is running for Georgia House District 30. She will face off against the winner of the June 21 runoff election between Republicans Whitney Pimentel and Derrick McCollum. 

“Vote blue! Vote blue! Vote blue! Because red doesn’t care,” she said. 

People lined up shoulder to shoulder in front of the Old Joe statue, holding signs with photographs of the Uvalde massacre victims. They took turns reading aloud about lives of each victim. Some in the crowd were crying. A woman used her husband’s shirt to wipe her tears. 

“It’s time to do something about guns in this country,” said Susan Wilkin, 69, of Clarkesville. 

She was invited by her friend, Irene Bender, 75, who called Clyde’s campaign signs — which picture an assault rifle and a promise to “protect the 2nd” — “disgraceful and an embarrassment.” 

The U.S. House on Wednesday passed a bill to stop the sale of semiautomatic weapons to those younger than 21 and ban the sale of high-capacity gun magazines. The vote was split nearly along party lines, with most Democrats in favor and most Republicans opposed. The bill needs 60 votes to overcome the filibuster in the Senate.

06122022 protest
More than 100 people gathered in Gainesville’s downtown square Saturday, June 11, to protest gun violence in America. - photo by Ben Anderson