Thousands to rally against gun violence in Washington, across US

An attendee holds a sign during the Moms Demand Action Gun Violence Rally on June 8 in Washington DC. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Tens of thousands of demonstrators are expected to rally in Washington DC and across the country on Saturday (June 11), calling on lawmakers to pass legislation aimed at curbing gun violence following last month's massacre at a Texas elementary school.

March For Our Lives (MFOL), the gun safety group founded by student survivors of the 2018 massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida, said it has planned more than 450 rallies for Saturday, including events in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

The organisation's 2018 march on Washington, weeks after 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, brought hundreds of thousands of people to the nation's capital to pressure Congress to take legislative action, though Republican opposition has prevented any new limits on guns from passing the US Senate.

This year's event in Washington has a simple message to political leaders, according to organisers: Your inaction is killing Americans.

"We will no longer allow you to sit back while people continue to die," Mr Trevon Bosley, an MFOL board member, said in an e-mailed statement.

A gunman in Uvalde, Texas, killed 19 children and two teachers on May 24, 10 days after another gunman murdered 10 black people in a Buffalo, New York, grocery store in a racist attack.

The latest mass shootings have added new urgency to the country's ongoing debate over gun violence, though the prospects for federal legislation remain uncertain.

Among other policies, MFOL has called for an assault weapons ban, universal background checks for those trying to purchase guns and a national licensing system, which would register gun owners.

In recent weeks, a bipartisan group of Senate negotiators have vowed to hammer out a deal, though they have yet to reach an agreement.

Their effort is focused on relatively modest changes, such as incentivising states to pass "red flag" laws that allow authorities to keep guns from individuals deemed a danger to others.

The Democrat-controlled US House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a sweeping set of gun safety measures, but the legislation has no chance of advancing in the Senate, where Republicans have opposed gun limits as infringing upon the US Constitution's Second Amendment right to bear arms.

Speakers at the Washington rally include Mr David Hogg and Mr X Gonzalez, Parkland survivors and co-founders of MFOL; Ms Becky Pringle and Ms Randi Weingarten, the presidents of the two largest US teachers unions; and Ms Yolanda King, the granddaughter of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

Members of MFOL have spent the week meeting lawmakers in Washington to discuss gun violence.

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