OLYMPIA — With the pain of the Uvalde, Texas, school massacre still searing, people across Washington state joined the national March for Our Lives day of protests, imploring lawmakers to better regulate guns, and to honor those killed by gun violence.

In Olympia, hundreds of educators and other supporters of new restrictions marched at the state Capitol, while at a smaller Seattle rally, two moms mourned sons shot to death years ago, and said their indelible grief was rekindled by Uvalde, and the racist slaughter at a Buffalo grocery store 10 days earlier.

The Uvalde shooting, which killed 21 people, and the taking of 10 lives in Buffalo, were carried out by teenagers using semi-automatic rifles, a repeated characteristic of mass shootings the demonstrators hope can be reduced through legislation.

Washington state lawmakers are discussing a ban on assault weapons and possible requirements for gun-owner training, licenses and registration.

The U.S. House this past week passed a bill, on a mostly party-line vote of 223-204, to require a minimum age of 21 to buy semi-automatic rifles, and to ban ammunition magazines of more than 15 rounds. But “it has almost no chance of becoming law” due to Republican opposition in the U.S. Senate, The Associated Press reported. The House also passed a national “red flag” law, similar to one in Washington state, to remove and store someone’s firearms for two weeks, if family, household members, or law enforcement obtain a judge’s emergency order.

Teachers in Olympia

Lisa Mahendran, who teaches fifth grade at Cathcart Elementary in Snohomish, said that while she appreciates Washington’s comparatively strict gun laws, the state should go further by raising the age to buy a gun to 21 and requiring longer wait periods.

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“The only way anything is going to change is stricter gun laws,” Mahendran
said. “Increased security in schools isn’t going to help. Arming teachers is
crazy. We need stricter gun laws.”

Mahendran, her mother Lynanne Lewis and a fellow teacher, Cheryl Glassey,
said they joined the march — where signs with slogans including “protect
kids, not guns” popped above the crowd —  because of an increasing
worry over the safety of student and educators. 

“My focus should be on teaching, not whether I’m gonna take the first shot
to save your kid,” Glassey added. “That’s not my job, at least it shouldn’t
be.”

Lewis cried while hugging Mahendran, saying she was concerned for her
daughter’s safety.

As about 300 demonstrations were scheduled around the country Saturday, calls went out over the past week to gather not just in Olympia, but in communities including Bellingham, Bainbridge Island, Everett, Bremerton, Port Townsend, Longview, Moses Lake, Richland, Woodinville, Vancouver, Renton, Redmond and Lake Forest Park.

Last month, the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation emphasized a person’s right to self-defense, and the “good guys with guns” argument, citing FBI analysis where armed citizens killed four out of 61 FBI-categorized active shooters in 2021, and two active shooters in 2020.

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“The bottom line is that our Second Amendment rights are just as relevant today as they have ever been,” foundation Vice President Alan Gottlieb wrote.

Moms in Seattle

About 70 people came together in Seattle at Martin Luther King, Jr. Park, where names of slain people appeared on white signs with orange ribbons. The event, not connected with March for Our Lives, was organized by the local NAACP and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Committee. About half those wounded or killed by guns in King County are Black, the NAACP says.

Wanda Montgomery reminisced about cooking with her son DeShawn Milliken, where he would step right and she would step left, dancing around their kitchen. He was shot to death at age 30 during an altercation inside a Bellevue nightclub, on Christmas Eve 2012. The 19-year-old assailant was previously involved in the slaying of Ed “Tuba Man” McMichael near Seattle Center.

“My son, he was my world. And I know people say it gets better with time. It
hasn’t gotten better,” Montgomery said. “It will be 10 years this December of
this year, since he’s gone, and my heart still hurts. My heart is still
bleeding. I miss my baby boy. No mother or father should have to bury their
child. And I want to thank you guys for being here, so I could say his name and know that it would never be forgotten. I can say DeShawn Eugene Milliken.”

Keonna Jackson, whose 24-year-old son D’Andre Dickerson was killed in a
northeast Portland parking lot in 2015, wore a black football jersey with
#DREDAY on front, MOM in back, and the number 21 he wore playing wide receiver for Rainier Eagles youth football. He loved inviting people to barbecues, even those he didn’t know yet, Jackson said.

“He was the type of person who would instantly light up a room once he
entered. You was going to laugh and smile when Dre was around. Now there’s
silence where all of that was.”

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Every time Jackson hears about a shooting, she said, her first thought is
with the moms.

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell recalled his childhood, in the nearby Central Area, where boys might shove or hit each other and then go play basketball. Nowadays no place is safe from lethal gunshots — not schools, not churches, not a movie theater, he said in a preacherlike 10-minute speech.

Harrell suggested a ballot measure to let local governments in Washington state enact their own gun laws. That would allow Seattle to ban and confiscate firearms in city parks, for instance, the mayor explained later.

“We’re getting through a crazy pandemic right now,” he concluded. “We’re
seeing mass shootings at unprecedented levels. This is our time to better love
one another.”

Reports of gunfire in Seattle are up 75% this year, totaling 15 fatal shootings, 63 injuries, and 224 shot-fired calls as of May 31, according to the city’s police dashboard.

Montgomery said afterward that Saturday was her first appearance at a political event, but that she’s given away $2,000 scholarships, spoken in church, and volunteered in food drives. “When they contacted me I was overjoyed,” she said, “because I want to say the name of DeShawn Eugene Milliken.”

Staff reporter Sarah Grace Taylor reported from Olympia. Staff reporter Mike Lindblom reported from Seattle.

Editor’s note: Out of concern for those involved in this story and their loved ones, the comment thread has been closed.