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March For Our Lives rallies across the U.S. call for gun control

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Thousands of people are expected to rally today in Washington, D.C., to push for gun safety laws. Hundreds of other marches are planned across the country. These marches come in the wake of yet another string of deadly mass shootings, when it remains unclear if Congress will successfully pass legislation that addresses gun violence. NPR's Jennifer Ludden joins us. Jennifer, thanks so much for being with us.

JENNIFER LUDDEN, BYLINE: Hi, Scott.

SIMON: This unfortunately feels familiar, doesn't it?

LUDDEN: Yes, it does. This rally is put on by March for Our Lives. That was the group created by students who survived a mass shooting at their high school in Parkland, Fla., in 2018. Some have absolutely expressed frustration that not much has changed since then, but they have kept up their activism. And some were on Capitol Hill this week talking with lawmakers about what they would like to finally see done.

SIMON: Tell us about appearances this week, when family members of some of those who were killed and injured in the recent mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas, testified before Congress.

LUDDEN: It was gut-wrenching, and it was graphic. There was actually a taped statement from a fourth grader in Uvalde, Texas, where a shooter killed 19 students and two teachers, almost all Mexican Americans. She described how, in that classroom, she smeared blood from other students on herself so that if the shooter came back, he would think she was dead already. An Uvalde pediatrician spoke. He'd gone to the hospital that day. He talked about how an AR-15 just pulverizes the bodies of children. And Zeneta Everhart spoke. Her son, Zaire Goodman, was injured in the Buffalo attack that killed 10 people and targeted a grocery store in a Black neighborhood. She told lawmakers bits of shrapnel will be in her son's body forever.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ZENETA EVERHART: If after hearing from me and the other people testifying here today does not move you to act on gun laws, I invite you to my home to help me clean Zaire's wounds so that you may see up close the damage that has been caused to my son and to my community.

LUDDEN: And some of these family members called for really aggressive gun control measures. Kimberly Rubio's daughter, Lexi, was one of those killed in Uvalde. She wants a ban on assault rifles, and she told lawmakers she wants them to raise the age to buy those weapons from 18 to 21.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KIMBERLY RUBIO: We understand that for some reason, to some people, to people with money, to people who fund political campaigns, that guns are more important than children. So at this moment, we ask for progress.

SIMON: But what kind of measures is Congress considering?

LUDDEN: Well, the House this week actually passed a sweeping bill. Among other things, it includes a higher minimum age for buying certain semiautomatic rifles and new restrictions on high-capacity magazines. But this is not going to pass in the Senate. It's a bipartisan group considering a far more narrow set of measures. A main one would encourage states to pass so-called red flag laws. They let guns be taken temporarily from people that a court has deemed are a danger to themselves or others. But even for that, it's not clear they can get the support of the 10 Republicans at least that they would need.

SIMON: Jennifer, there is quite a bit of public support for action, though, isn't there?

LUDDEN: There is. In fact, this week, an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found support for controlling gun violence at its highest level in a decade. There are definitely sharp partisan divides, but a majority of Americans and a majority of gun owners say now that it's more important to control gun violence than to protect gun rights.

SIMON: NPR's Jennifer Ludden, thanks so much.

LUDDEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.