(WASHINGTON) — On the fourth anniversary of the “March For Our Lives” rally, more than 1,100 body bags — each one representing 150 people — were placed on the National Mall Thursday to mark the more than 170,000 people who have died from gun violence in the U.S. since the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
“This could happen to your community again, unfortunately at this point in America, it’s not a matter of what, just every single day,” David Hogg, Parkland survivor and co-founder for March For Our Lives, told ABC News. “People ask me, ‘Are you worried about the next part?’ I say yes, but actually more worried about … that this is a preventable issue.”
March For Our Lives is a nonprofit organization that formed after thousands came to Washington, D.C., to demand action in the gun violence epidemic in the wake of the Parkland shooting, which left 14 students and three staff members dead.
While the organization said it has made strides to combat violence in the past four years, it said Congress needs to do more.
It’s calling on Congress to create a White House senior staff position dedicated to gun violence, pass universal background checks, provide a comprehensive plan on how to combat gun violence and invest in research and community-based violence intervention, the organization told ABC News.
The body bags facing the Capitol Thursday spelled out “Thoughts and Prayers,” a common phrase lawmakers use in the wake of tragedies.
“We want to provide a stark reality and visual of what not having done anything for years looks like,” Daud Mumin, March For Our Lives board of directors co-chair, told ABC News.
“Thoughts and prayers are reserved for things that are outside of our control, that are outside of our responsibility and ability, right? Gun violence is not a natural thing. Give us your action…. So for Congress, it’s got to be with us or against us,” Mumin said.
Even though Democrats took the White House, Senate and House in 2020, the activists said no major gun control legislation has been passed.
While President Joe Biden has called on Congress to act and pass background checks, Hogg said simply calling for it is not enough.
“We need leadership, not salesmanship on this issue,” Hogg said.
Biden signed executive orders last year aimed at tackling gun violence, with special attention to “ghost guns,” which are firearm kits that can be purchased online and assembled at home.
In the coming months, a measure that will modify the federal definition of “firearm” to include unfinished gun parts like frames and receivers is expected to receive approval. The Justice Department introduced the proposal in May 2021 in an effort to curb the rise of ghost guns.
As midterms approach and candidates begin to develop campaign strategies and court voters, March For Our Lives activists urge younger voters to consider their representatives’ records on gun reform as they cast their vote.
“People in Congress were not courageous enough to do something to end this problem,” Jaclyn Corin, a Parkland shooting survivor and a co-founder of March For Our Lives, told ABC News. “And so we’re going to be going up all the time every day, making sure that this issue is solved … every single person should be concerned and so many mothers and fathers and children or parents or children and it’s unacceptable that these are preventable deaths.”
Gun violence has been on the rise across the country in recent years and activists said it’s time for cities and a country plagued by it to step up.
The young activists said they plan to continue their fight no matter what happens in Congress and urge more young people to do the same.
“Your work is not going unnoticed … I want [Chicago] Mayor Lori Lightfoot, as well as Joe Biden, to understand you begged and begged for our votes, but you’re not going to keep get getting voted in if you’re not going to do anything,” Trevon Bosley a March For Our Lives Board Member, told ABC News.
Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.