Claire Lamonica has had enough.
“I was sure it would get better after Columbine and I was sure it would get better after Sandy Hook, but here we are. I hope all the young and old people work together for a change and Congress gets a clue,” said Lamonica of Normal.
She joined a multi-generational crowd of hundreds Saturday at the March for Our Lives event outside the McLean County Museum of History in Bloomington to advocate for stricter gun laws in the country.
About a dozen counter-protesters held signs and flags.
The local March for Our Lives event was one of more than 800 rallies around the world that was organized following last month’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 people dead.
Despite the blowing snow and ice, the crowd met for over an hour to hear speakers, sing songs and sign letters to state lawmakers on the museum steps. Then the crowd marched to the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts for a final song.
The march was organized by Voices of Reason, Indivisible McLean County, YWCA McLean County, Not In Our Town and the Normal Community High School Peace and Justice Group.
“We want to send a message that a majority of Americans want sensible gun reform, safe schools and safe communities,” said Jodie Slothower, event coordinator. “We’re not saying to get rid of guns, we’re saying guns need better regulations. We should get rid of bump stocks, improve the way guns are registered, increase background checks and work on mental health issues.”
Megan Michalski of Bloomington waved signs with her sons Felix, 8, and Murray, 6.
“I don’t want my children to be afraid to go to school. I’m worried about my youngest learning how to read, not hide. I hope the community can push aside their personal agenda,” said Michalski.
Normal Community West High School juniors Francesca Riley, Abby Ramsey and Mary Kelly waved signs as they stood in the snow.
“Guns have no place in schools. It genuinely makes us uncomfortable,” said Riley. “I think about the possibility of a shooter all the time. Like, if they came into this classroom, what window would I run to. That’s messed up.”
University High School students and sisters, Elizabeth and Katherine Raycraft used plastic bags to protect the messages on their rally signs.
“It’s not OK to have guns in school. Stand up for what you believe in and don’t let others, or the weather, stop you,” said Elizabeth, 16.
As a gun owner, Jerry Moncelle of Bloomington said he’s tired of gun violence and “something needs to change.”
“It’s the government’s responsibility to take care of people and they’re dropping the ball. We aren’t against guns, but we need more control to keep them out of the wrong hands,” he said.
John Boch of Bloomington and Ryan Sweeney of rural Armington attended to show support for the Second Amendment.
“We’re here to try to make people aware. There’s a lot of work that should be done before gun reform. Mental health reform is a huge issue and so is parenting. Criminals don’t follow laws anyway,” said Sweeney.
“We’re out here to show we won’t lay down as the other side marches to ban our guns,” said Boch.
Aishwarya Shekara of Bloomington said marchers want to protect everyone in the community, “including the counter-protesters.”
“I encouraged the crowd to contact their representatives, write letters, send emails and post more on social media about the cause,” said Shekara, a freshman at University of Illinois. “My fear is that students will lose hope. What about tomorrow and next month and next year? This movement isn’t over until we see better gun control in Congress.”