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Kern County Residents March For Gun Safety Following Florida School Shooting

Christina Lopez
Around 75 Kern County residents took part in a gun safety rally Monday in Bakersfield

Tuesday marks six days since a 19-year-old man walked onto a South Florida high school campus, opened fire, and murdered 17 people. Many students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have spoken out for stricter gun laws. Now students in Kern County are doing the same. On Monday afternoon, students from Bakersfield High School organized a rally in southwest Bakersfield in support of gun safety on high school campuses. FM 89’s Christina Lopez brings us this story.

On Presidents Day, students from Bakersfield High School didn’t just take they day off, they took to the streets to demand gun safety on their campus and inside their classrooms. 

On the corner of Stockdale Highway and California Avenue in Southwest Bakersfield - students, educators and parents stood alongside a busy intersection for a moment of silence to remember the 17 lives lost during last week's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. 

“It breaks my heart to think of these students starting school again this week without the other 17 who lost their lives tragically last Wednesday and expect them to feel safe and secure on campus," says Kat Gontijo, a Bakersfield High School junior and President of the Young Democrats Club. "We now face the harsh reality every day when we step on campus: we do not know if it will be out last."

Other students from Bakersfield High - including 17-year-old senior Lucy Brown - helped organize the rally which drew a crowd of about 75 from across the county.

“Watching someone my age go through so much, a thing that nobody should go through at my age, kind of made me think locally we need to start a movement that shows how we feel about this issue," says Brown. I hope that we can hopefully elect a representative who is willing to make changes to these gun laws.”

Educators like Mark Helen Barro also share that same sentiment. 

“I was appalled when the Kern High School District voted to arm teachers in the schools. Schools should not be armed camps. This is ridiculous. Congress needs to grow a spine. Kevin McCarthy, Ryan need to grow spines. They need to stand up to the NRA. Right now, Congress including McCarthy are owned lock, stock, and barrel by the NRA.” 

The Women's March Kern County organization helped spread the word of the rally through social media. Those in attendance at Monday's rally hope their words and actions don't fall on deaf ears come June and November when Kern voters visit the polls. 

Christina Lopez is a freelance reporter based in Bakersfield. She contributes reports to Valley Public Radio.