On Saturday, March 22, protesters, activists, and advocates all across America will be participating in the March For Our Lives, a national event in support of gun control and other reforms to reduce to prevalence of gun violence. And on Thursday, the March For Our Lives route in Orlando went public, and it includes a pair of stops at some politically and symbolically important sites.
Participants in the Orlando protest will march to the of Florida senator Marco Rubio, a major recipient of donations from the National Rifle Association (NRA), as well as the Pulse LGBTQ nightclub that was the site of a deadly mass shooting back in 2016 that killed a staggering 49 people.
According to The Orlando Sentinel, the marchers will visit the site of the shooting, as well as Rubio's Orlando office. The two-term Florida senator has been the target of intense scrutiny for his opposition to proposed gun control reforms. He also received withering criticism from gun control advocates following his appearance at a CNN town hall, debating the merits of various gun control policies with some teenage survivors of last month's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida.
The Parkland shooting killed 17 people, including 14 of the school's students and three members of its staff. The subsequent activism of many of the school's students is what's kept the national spotlight focused on gun violence and proposed reforms, and served as the foundation for the upcoming marches this weekend.
It's not just Orlando that will see marchers on Saturday. In the mold of the massively attended Women's Marches of the last two years, March 24 will bring headlining demonstrations to Washington, D.C. and will be joined by other marches in cities throughout the United States. Needless to say, the sibling marches in the state of Florida will be particularly significant given that it's where the Parkland shooting took place.
The protests, broadly speaking, will be in support of legislative reforms to reduce the prevalence of guns and gun violence in American life. It's worth noting that not all of the Parkland students support these sorts of proposals ― to be clear, no student body is monolithic, and Stoneman Douglas has more conservative, pro-gun students, too.
That said, with the deadly shooting fueling a national conversation about gun violence, it's not hard to see why those students who do support reforms are making their voices heard, even just one month after surviving a severely traumatic and harrowing event.
In the aftermath of the shooting, in the midst of heavy media scrutiny of the Republican Party's relationship with the NRA, President Donald Trump voiced apparent support for some gun control proposals. Since then, however, he's backtracked on some proposals that might have run counter to the desires of the NRA, and has instead focused most of his support behind arming some teachers and members of school staff.
It's yet unclear whether the current momentum behind gun control will amount to any meaningful legislative changes. A recently passed House spending bill includes a clarification of the Dickey Amendment, which would allow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to gather and research data on gun violence. If signed into law, this could enable the CDC to examine gun violence as a public health issue, something it hasn't done for decades.
As for laws to limit or outright ban the sale of certain classes of massively lethal firearms, however, it remains doubtful that the GOP-led Congress will cooperate on any such major reforms. But from the sounds of things, the Republicans ― Rubio in particular, if the Orlando marchers have their way ― will be facing a lot of public pressure on Saturday.