March for Our Lives draws hundreds to downtown San Jose
Asmara Farah, 13, at San Jose's March For Our Lives Rally on Saturday. Photo by Kyle Martin.

    A few hundred residents flocked to Downtown San Jose Saturday to rally against gun violence and engage Silicon Valley lawmakers in discussion about gun reform.

    The focus of the event was galvanizing young voices in the fight against gun-related deaths.

    “I’m fed up with people saying ‘a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun,’ when every available statistic proves otherwise,” said 13-year-old featured speaker, Asmara Farah.

    Farah, a young Muslim woman, told San José Spotlight she decided to participate in the March For Our Lives event following another mass shooting in a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand earlier this month — a massacre resulting in the death of 50 people, and dozens more suffering from gunshot wounds.

    “Gun violence doesn’t discriminate,” Farah said. “I feel like it’s most definitely a personal issue.”

    Overwhelmingly, the youthful advocates at the rally were calling for immediate action in ending senseless killings. And adults were on hand to help spread the word.

    “This is not a sit-down war,” said LaToya Fernandez, a featured musical performer, atop the stage Saturday. She performed a song titled “Black Lives Matter,” as part of the opening to the afternoon’s event.

    California Assemblyman Evan Low took the stage to encourage young people in attendance to get involved in politics.

    “Let me just say as a proud Millenial in the state Legislature,” Low said, “We know that young people will take the call to action for change that we need in the state and in the nation.”

    Low mentioned Saturday that he has authored a California Constitutional amendment asking the state Legislature to put a question to voters about lowering the voting age to 17, in an effort to increase youth voter participation. He also stressed his stance on gun control.

    “We want to make universal background checks,” Low said. “We want to make it harder to get firearms. We want to provide a timeframe to where you can purchase additional weapons. These are sensible firearm regulations that still respect the Second Amendment. This is no different, full stop.”

    Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto), who also attended the rally Saturday, co-sponsored a bill to require background checks for firearm transfers between private parties.

    “Our caucus looks like you,” Eshoo told the crowd. “Each of you are not only marching for your lives, you’re marching to make this actually happen.”

    Organized by locals with March For Our Lives, the focus of the event was engaging young people in conversations about violent gun crimes in the wake of mass shootings, such as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, where a gunman killed 17 of the school’s students and faculty.

    March For Our Lives, now a national organization and movement, was founded by survivors of the tragic incident. The organization holds events throughout the country to spread awareness and fundraise for pro-gun control legislation.

    San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo mentioned his Oct. 2017 measure in San Jose which mandated stricter home-storage conditions for personal firearms and his efforts to curb “straw purchases,” or the purchase of guns to sell to those who aren’t lawfully allowed to own guns.

    The measure requires that gun shop owners record video and audio of all gun sales.

    “We know that is a significant source of guns that are moving into our community, and so we’re working to figure out how we can do something about that, and still be able to survive whatever legal challenge we’re going to get, as soon as we pass this ordinance,” Liccardo said. “Please continue to lead. Please continue to push. I look forward to pushing with you in the weeks and months ahead.”

    The event closed with a panel discussion with Assemblyman Ash Kalra, Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese, Stanford professor Dean Winslow and psychiatrist Leena Khanzode.

    “We need national policy, and that means we need a change in leadership in Washington D.C.,” said Kalra, who has proposed legislation to put vote centers on college campuses.

    “Young people have always been told, and always will be told, ‘you’re too young. Let the grownups handle this. Let the people that have more experience handle this.,’” Kalra said. “The reality is that the grownups have screwed it up, and we need the young people to lead.”

    He also criticized a federal judge’s decision Friday to rule California’s Proposition 63 unconstitutional — a legislative measure which until then had been a voter-approved ban on high-capacity gun magazines.

    “In California, as progressive as we are on gun violence prevention, on gun laws,” Kalra said, “it doesn’t matter much if the national government’s not following, if our courts aren’t getting it, and if you can just go to Nevada or other states and just drive right across the border. So this is an issue that we have to take across the nation.”

    Contact Kyle Martin at [email protected] or follow him @Kyle_Martin35 on Twitter.

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