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‘This plaza should be full’: Cummings, activists rally for gun safety in light of mass shootings, high homicide rate

In the wake of high-profile mass shootings, U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, other local politicians and dozens of activists — many of whom lost loved ones to gun violence — rallied in Baltimore Saturday for gun safety.

Though the crowd often cheered as one, the rally was an intersection of concerns for both mass shootings across the country and for the devastatingly high homicide rate in Baltimore.

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Some Baltimore residents spoke of the city’s systemic problems leading to disproportionately black victims of gun violence, calling for better funding for education and mandatory conflict resolution courses in schools. Other activists from Maryland suburbs said they were alarmed by school lock downs and called for universal background checks and closing legal loopholes for purchasing firearms.

Most in attendance agreed gun violence is a public health crisis that needs to be addressed immediately by legislators.

The rally followed a march through Baltimore organized by the Maryland chapters of gun safety advocacy groups including Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action. The events were part of a multi-city campaign Saturday in response to the shootings this month in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, and to gun violence found across the country.

At the Baltimore rally and march, activists from across Maryland donned bright red shirts and carried posters that read “disarm hate" and “enough is enough."

“This plaza should be full,” Cummings, a Baltimore Democrat, said to the crowd of more than 100 that dotted the lawn of the War Memorial Plaza in front of Baltimore City Hall.

Cummings said Saturday’s event was very personal for him, as his own nephew was fatally shot in 2011 while completing his junior year at Old Dominion University. The congressman shared in graphic detail how he visited the crime scene to survey what was left behind.

“We have had too many murders in our country," Cummings said.

Cummings’ point echoed the sentiments of 20-year-old activist Antonio Moore, whose speech elicited one of the rally’s most mournful moments when he asked those in attendance to say the names of people they knew who had died from gun violence.

Some in the crowd bellowed the names, while others said them quietly to themselves.

“Not one more,” Moore said, punctuating each word after the crowd fell silent.

“I feel like it really affirmed a commonality of pain from losing a loved one," he said following his speech.

Caroline Broder, a member of the Maryland chapter for Moms Demand Action, said the movement for meaningful action on gun violence is a marathon, not a sprint.

“I have hope," she said. “Ten years ago, you never would have seen [Democratic presidential candidates] attending these kinds of functions."

Another mother in attendance, Linda DeMinds, held the hand of her 7-year-old grandson Jerimiah as she marched. DeMinds’ only son Mark Pearce was fatally shot in the head in Baltimore only 10 months prior, she said.

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“It’s still fresh,” she said of her son’s death.

“I came out to be around other mothers who’ve been through it,” she said, adding that this was her first time attending any event related to gun violence.

DeMinds believed families are called to advocate for loved ones in their absence, she said.

"But it doesn’t bring my son back,” she said.

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