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Advocates tell Congress to ‘protect kids, not guns’ at Bloomington march

LuAnn Salz of Peru led a chant of 'protect kids, not guns' during a March for Our Lives rally in Bloomington on Saturday.
Eric Stock
LuAnn Salz of Peru led a chant of "protect kids, not guns" during a March for Our Lives rally in Bloomington on Saturday.

LuAnn Salz drove from Peru, Ill., to Bloomington on Saturday because it was the closest March for Our Lives rally she could find.

Salz led a chant of "protect kids, not guns" to a gathering of about 75 gun control advocates outside the McLean County Museum of History.

Salz noted gun violence has topped automobile crashes as the leading killer of children in the U.S.

“Whenever we have problems with automobiles, we fix it, right?” Salz asked the crowd. “We never fix the gun problem. Never.”

Patty Avery came from Peoria for the rally because she said she has seen the trauma gun violence has on many of her students. Avery is retiring as a fifth-grade teacher.

March for Our Lives rally Bloomington
Eric Stock
About 75 people gathered for a March for Our Lives rally outside the McLean County Museum of History in Bloomington on Saturday.

“They are nervous when they have to do the drills. They are very nervous and they are scared,” Avery said.

March for Our Lives rallies were scheduled for Saturday in Washington, D.C., and throughout the country. The national movement started after the 2018 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, Fla.

This year’s rallies are especially poignant as recent mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York, have amplified calls for Congress to enact tougher gun control laws.

Sandy Meskimen of Peoria said she’s cautiously optimistic Congress will approve some reforms, but she said she’s been fooled before.

“Columbine, Sandy Hook, you just keep thinking surely they’ll do something this time because surely they can’t ignore this, but then it gets ignored,” Meskimen said.

Meskimen said if Congress takes any action it will likely be minor. Several marchers said they would like to see an assault weapons ban, an idea lawmakers aren't considering. They said they would at least like to see the age limit to purchase such a weapon to 21, something several advocates say seems unlikely.

Salz said she would also like to see a national red flag law. She also doesn’t expect major reforms to become reality.

“I think what will likely happen is there will be an attempt to do something small, but we need big steps and I’m not sure Congress is ready to do that,” Salz said.

The U.S. House this week approved a comprehensive gun-control measure mostly along party lines. McLean County’s two representatives, Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville) and Darin LaHood (R-Peoria), both voted no.

Senate leaders are working on a separate, more narrow measure to address gun safety through mental health, expanded background checks and school security.

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.