Across the country today protests against gun violence in schools were held in cities large and small, and news reports indicate many high school students joined those protests, dubbed nationwide as "March for our Lives."
There was also a march in Batavia today, organized by local progressives, and more than 200 people turned out -- mostly adults, mostly people age 50 and older.
The idea of high school students grabbing the spotlight in the fight against gun violence began after the Parkland, Fla., shooting where 17 students died and students at that school immediately began speaking out.
On March 14, hundreds of Batavia High School students participated in a national walkout to protest gun violence at schools.
Few of those students turned out for today's event. There were perhaps five or six teenagers in today's crowd.
Batavia HS student Lauren Leone served as the event's emcee and one of the speakers was BHS student Sophia Alkhouri Stuart.
"We are calling all the adults in our country to live up to their responsibility to help protect us from gun violence," Stuart said. "Today as you march, you are marching for life. We need to be united in our commitment to life and to innocent children who are committed to learning. We need to eliminate the ability of those who seek to harm others to get ahold of a gun. This is our time and this is our chance to change the story of our schools."
The other speakers were all adults.
Pastor James Renfrew opened with a short sermon drawing on a parable from the New Testament about a farmer sowing seeds. Renfrew said there were many lessons to draw from the parable, including the importance of listening.
"Listen to our children," Renfrew said. "Listen to their worries and fears. Listen to their thoughts and dreams. In listening, we become the seeds planted in good soil, growing, and thriving and multiplying God’s hopes. As you listen to the voices of children, it becomes the amazing harvest described in the parable."
Most of the signs carried by marchers called for some degree of elimination of guns, such as banning assault rifles.
While not naming the National Rifle Association, Gary Pudup called out those organizations that oppose any and all gun control.
"There are those who will make false arguments trying to distract us from our goal, a society free of the constant fear of gun violence," Pudup said. "They will say we should simply strengthen background checks when strengthening background checks is meaningless unless the laws behind them are meaningful.
"They will tell us that teachers with guns are the cure for what ails us" -- at which point several people cried out "No." -- "They will tell us that the young man who committed the murders at Parkland was evil as if a 19-year-old was the very definition of evil. Let me give you my definition of evil. Evil is an organization that holds the values of profits higher than the value of children’s lives."
Pudup did praise a group founded in Rochester that is pursuing legislation focused on keeping guns out of the hands of potentially violent people, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. The organization is backing a bill that would create an "Emergency Restraining Protection Order," which would create a process in court to deny access to guns to anybody who is a threat to themselves or others.
Bethany resident Carol Kistner then spoke and said she had recently joined Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. She was dressed in a camouflage jacket that belongs to her husband and a camouflage shirt that belongs to her father to also represent her family's hunting interest. And the layers of clothing also represented the multilayered problem of gun violence, that the problem is complex and will defy easy solutions, such as just taking away guns.
She said Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is an organization not interested in taking away anybody's guns.
"We recognize and want to preserve this wonderful tradition that my family has enjoyed forever," Kistner said. "Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America recognizes that there is a great fear among those who enjoy sports, the sports of shooting and hunting.
"We honor those traditions but our biggest challenge is to get out the word to our rural counties just like this one that we are not against you. We are for you. No one has greater respect for guns and gun safety than hunters and sportsman."
She said it's really up to those who understand guns and gun safety to support sensible action to help reduce gun violence.
She said the legislation the group is backing in New York would provide a process to deny access to guns for people who have threatened suicide, have shown they are violent criminals, or the violently mentally ill.
"Those are three places to potentially remove guns — with due process, of course," she said.
After the speech, the group marched from Williams Park to City Hall chanting slogans such as "Enough is Enough" and carrying their signs.
Top photo: Sophia Alkhouri Stuart.