Around 600 Houstonians protested in front of City Hall and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s Southeast Texas office on Sunday, June 11, to raise awareness on gun safety legislation and violence in light of the recent stream of mass shootings across the country.
The March For Our Lives rally organized by Houston youth was created to spotlight the 19 children and two teachers massacred in Uvalde, Texas and the 10 Black elderly victims murdered in a Tops Friendly Market grocery store in Buffalo, New York.
“We are so tired of all these preventable things happening,” March For Our Lives Houston Executive Secretary Mujeebat Gbolahan told the Signal. “We youths are knowledgeable. We live in this society. We see this, and it’s affecting us. So we need officials to ignore our age and focus on what our message is.”
Highlighting gun control legislation, including universal background checks, raising the minimum age to purchase an assault rifle to 21 years old, red flag laws, and voting in favorable gun reform candidates were echoed by students, educators, elected officials, and advocacy organizations who participated in the rally.
In addition to Cruz, the youth-driven rally also called out elected officials, including Gov. Greg Abbott and other Republican lawmakers who have transactional relationships with the National Rifle Association, gun lobbyists, and manufacturers.
“Unless our elected officials stop taking donations or having dinner with NRA leaders, we won’t accomplish anything,” March For Our Lives Houston Executive Director Asya Ardawatia said. “Don’t even get me started on those cowards hiding in D.C. Those politicians get to sit in those gilded seats in Congress by taking money and shaking hands with NRA officials and living a safe, comfortable life because they will never be affected by this gun violence that plagues our nation.”
Notably, just days after the Uvalde mass shooting, the National Rifle Association held an event at the George R. Brown Convention Center, blocks away from Houston City Hall.
At the event, both Abbott and Cruz delivered messages on mental health, arming educators in the classrooms, more security, and possibly creating one-way school entry doors.
Despite attempting to steer the public safety conversation away from guns and emphasizing mental health, Abbott is distracting Texans from his previous decisions to cut funding from the state mental health program.
According to CNN, Abbott has cut $93 million from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission leading the state’s mental health services. Notably, Texas ranks 50 out of 51 territories in the U.S. in access to mental health care services.
In the meantime, those millions of dollars in state funds have been funneled to Operation Lone Star, a border security initiative created by Abbott and the Texas Department of Public Safety to “secure the border.”
But according to reports, the $2 billion invested in Operation Lone Star has resulted in predominantly low-level marijuana arrests along the southern border.
Nevertheless, after the deadly mass shootings at a Walmart in El Paso and Santa Fe High School, Abbott still signed HB 1927, allowing anyone in the state of Texas over 21 years old to purchase a firearm without a permit.
State Representative Ann Johnson, who fought against the bill in the 2021 legislative session, said fighting against the Republican-led legislation at the Capitol resulted in her receiving threatening messages and phone calls.
Still, she said she’s not afraid — and is encouraging the young voters behind the movement to keep the pressure on organizing, mobilizing, and voting.
“We are gun sense elected officials, but we are in the minority,” Johnson said. “It is time that you send elected officials that will protect 2nd graders as much as they will protect the damn 2nd amendment.”