Supporters of I-1639 gathered near Garfield High School on Tuesday, Sept. 4. Photo courtesy of the Alliance for Gun Responsbility
On Tuesday, Sept. 4, locals gathered on the roof of the Medgar Evers Pool near Garfield High School for a sobering back-to-school rally.
Instead of being entertained by pep talks and funny anecdotes about the first day of school, the crowd heard stories of regular active shooter drills and young lives lost to gun violence.
This was the kick-off event for the Alliance for Gun Responsibility’s "Yes on Initiative 1639" campaign. Behind the podium stood campaign members, elected officials, student leaders and their peers in support of I-1639.
For those unfamiliar with the initiative, it would, among other changes, require enhanced background checks and increase the minimum age for purchasing a semi-automatic rifle in Washington state. It was recently blocked from the November 2018 Washington state ballot only to be re-instated by the state Supreme Court on August 24.
Today's event was meant to inspire voters as the Alliance pushes for I-1639 to pass this November.
Who was there?
The audience was diverse with most wearing orange in support of the campaign and many carrying signs with the phrase “Never Again.”
The first speaker: Paul Kramer, the father of Will Kramer, who was shot at a party in Mukilteo in 2016 by a Kamiak High School classmate. Kramer's son survived; several of his friends were killed in the shooting. I-1639, Kramer said, will “save lives.”
Rainier Beach High School senior and March for Our Lives organizer Ola Jackson followed. She shared two tales of gun violence: one of her cousin in a 2015 drive-by shooting, the other of a close friend in 2017 during an encounter with the police.
Finally, Niko Battle, co-founder of We Won't Be Next and a Kamiak High student. Battle discussed the measures his school has had to take in a world of school shootings including installing magnets on classroom doors for teachers to lock during a shooting and showing "Run. Hide. Fight." videos featuring images of dead and inured children.
“We prepare for the worst case scenario all the time,” he said. “Our movements are born out of necessity, not desire.”
Following today's rally, the Alliance will begin touring Washington state, holding other rallies and meetings to talk with voters about I-1639.
Renee Hopkins, CEO of the Alliance, said she's optimistic about the outcome of the tour. “The majority of people across the state are supportive of the initiative and responsible gun laws,” she said.
“Yes on 1639” campaign manager, Stephen Paolini, also expects positive results, pointing to the 378,000 signatures I-1639 gathered to get it on the ballot — the fastest signature drive in Washington state history, according to Paolini.
"When we stand together," he said, "we win.”
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