Days after shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, claimed 31 lives, scores of people gathered in Squirrel Hill to rally for an end to gun violence. More than 15 speakers addressed the crowd, which blanketed the lawn and steps in front of the Sixth Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh Thursday evening.
The rally was organized by CeaseFirePA along with Casa San José and Squirrel Hill Stands Against Gun Violence. Speakers included local activists and elected officials who were unified in their demand for stricter gun laws.
“I refuse to sit back and watch hundreds more of us get slaughtered just because our leaders won’t take action,” said Monica Ruiz, executive director of the immigrant aid organization Casa San José. “We have the power. Now, let’s use it. And we have to use it to save our own lives.”
Several speakers blamed President Donald Trump for recent violence, saying his rhetoric emboldens white supremacists to attack minority groups.
Carolyn Ban, of the group Squirrel Hill Stands Against Gun Violence, recalled the devastation she experienced after her congregation was attacked at the Tree of Life synagogue last year.
“I don’t want to put up with this anymore,” Ban told the crowd at Thursday’s rally. “And none of us should put up with this. We shouldn’t have to live like this.”
Ban and others called for stricter gun laws, including bans on military-style assault weapons, limits on magazine capacities, and red flag laws, aimed at preventing guns from ending up in the hands of potential shooters.
Thursday's event, which ended with a candlelight vigil, followed other demonstrations in Pennsylvania that called for gun policy changes in the wake of last weekend's mass shootings.
Earlier this week in Harrisburg, activists took to the streets to drum up support for tougher gun laws on both the state and federal levels. Ralliers collected signatures from passersby for a petition urging policymakers to adopt the reforms that speakers mentioned at Thursday’s rally in Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto was among the politicians who spoke at the rally. Peduto also partnered with the organization Moms Demand Action, another cosponsor, earlier this week, calling on state and federal legislators to pass a variety of gun-control bills in the next 30 days. However, passage of those bills within that time frame is unlikely. The U.S. Congress is on recess until the beginning of September, while state legislators won’t return to Harrisburg until the end of September.