Veterans for Peace flag bearer - 20-25 vets commit suicide every day.
Murray KY - August 3rd - When National Rifle Association President Oliver North was invited by the Marshall and Calloway County Republican Parties to speak at their Night Before Fancy Farm event, gun safety activists were outraged. Murray State closed campus buildings early, advising staff to lock up as they left.
The April shooting that left two students and seventeen injured at Marshall County High School in Benton dead was less than six months past. The shooter was scheduled for a hearing in Marshall Circuit Court that same day. The appearance of insensitivity was apparent to high school and college students who reached out to the Western Kentucky Chapter of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Mothers Demand Action and Veterans for Peace.
The groups gathered behind the Curris Center on Murray State University campus to rally before they marched to Lovett Auditorium where North would be speaking at a $60 a person event.
Among the approximately seventy five who showed up for the protest were small children, mothers, students and disabled vets.
The Shondell family, came from Nashville to speak about the loss of their son at a Waffle House shooting in April. Shondell Brooks lost her son Akeela DaSilva who died with three others when a deranged man used AR-15 style. Brooks said her son was a rapper who had never been in trouble and rapped about nonviolence and peace.
Shown at right, Shondell Brooks and two of her children.
High school students described the shooting at MHS. The shooting by a 15 year old high school band member who according to a report in the Washington Post "did it as an experiment." The young women said their lives were changed forever and they are certainly old enough to take part in the debate on gun control.
Veterans for Peace were on hand to raise awareness of veterans who commit suicide - most with guns. Between 20-25 vets kill themselves every day. Not all are not combat veterans, according to a spokesperson for the group. "I know how to fire a machine gun," one said. "Believe me. You don't need one."
Another school shooting survivor, Hollon Holm, was fourteen in 1997. A young shooter killed two girls at his high school and left him and others injured at Heath High School in Lone Oak.
Holm told the crowd that when he hears of mass shootings, he is "fourteen years old. Shot again and I am scared" Holm told the students that he is "in awe of you."
Holm, shown at right, said that 8 in 10 Americans want Congress and the states to pass real common sense gun laws. Not taking guns, but keeping them out of the hands of dangerous people. Background checks and no guns for those convicted of domestic violence. Safe storage and child access laws are favored by 60% of the public.
As protesters started organizing for the march across campus, an NRA cap wearing man showed up and began haranguing them. The media present gathered around with microphones outstretched.
At left, protesters formed an outer ring around the media, chanting "Shame on you" at the media and yelling "Why are you interviewing him?"
A couple of students engaged the man in a debate, asking if he was a student at MSU. He said he had been years ago. The students demanded he leave their campus.
Marchers who went to protest at Lovett Auditorium were met by barricades, a heavy police presence, with SWAT, and an ambulance standing by. Police faced the protestors and brandished handcuffs according to one participant.
One frustrated protestor was infuriated that police acted as if she and others there were the threat. "The people were peaceful gentle people who just want someone to say let's make guns safer so accidents/shootings don't happen. If law enforcement has to keep their guns locked and they are the experts, then why are non-experts allowed to keep guns without locks. Three seconds to get a lock undone."
No one was arrested and the demonstration ended peacefully.
North mentioned the shooting at Marshall County only briefly during his remarks. Reporters attending the event said that he focused instead on conservative themes.