INDIANAPOLIS — Students crowded near a microphone at the top of a side staircase at the Indiana Statehouse for the 2019 Indianapolis March For Our Lives rally to make sure news cameras saw their messages.
They held signs with phrases like “it’s a school zone not a war zone,” and “bullets are not school supplies."
About 200 people gathered Saturday for the second annual Indianapolis rally. It was smaller than last year’s event, which took place inside the statehouse.
Many advocates said they feel there has been little effort to improve gun safety since the March For Our Lives movement originally rose up last year in response to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people.
Where the national movement often addresses school and mass shootings, the speakers in Indianapolis this year tried to also bring attention to the gun violence that affects some communities on a regular basis.
Tony Leadford, an eighth grader at Chapel Hill Seventh and Eighth Grade Center, came forward to talk about how a football teammate and his sister both died by gun violence. A couple weeks ago, he found out another friend was also shot in the shoulder but survived.
“I don't think nobody want to lose a family member or a friend,” he said after the rally. “That’s just sad.”
People don’t take the issue seriously, Leadford said. He doesn’t feel like anything has changed recently to make the issue better.
In the future, Leadford hopes to see fewer murders because so many people have lost loved ones.
IU freshman Evann Englert, who spoke at the event, is part of a group trying to start a campus chapter of Students Demand Action. He said he became involved with gun safety advocacy last year and realized more changes needed to be made.
“Since Parkland, literally nothing has been done,” he said before the rally.
In the legal system, few efforts for significant gun reform have been successful.
A bill recently passed in the U.S. House of Representatives would fix loopholes in the system that currently don’t require background checks for guns purchased at online or at gun shows.
The White House has said President Trump would veto the bill if it passed in the Senate.
Englert brought up the issue of background checks during his speech in which he advocated for attendees to contact their local legislators to get laws passed.
“Universal background checks sound like common sense, right?” Englert asked.
The crowd cheered.
“That’s because they are.”
Marleyla Wiltz, a sophomore at Bloomington High School South, traveled with a group of Bloomington students to the main March For Our Lives rally last year in Washington, D.C.
She carried the same light blue sign this year, which reads "books not bullets."
She said she noticed the Indianapolis march was pretty small, partially because it was on a state level but also because people are starting to become complacent again.
But it's just the beginning, Wiltz said. For her, there is still much more to do to keep the United States safe, and she plans to one day run for office to make that happen.
"We just need to keep going," she said.