A group congregated on the steps of the Statehouse on June 4, South Carolina's firearm safety awareness day, to call for state and federal legislators to support violence intervention programs and pass stricter gun laws.
Supporters were asked to wear orange as a part of the “Wear Orange” campaign which encourages an annual act of advocacy against gun violence during the first weekend of June.
“I see many of us out here with a color of orange on. The color orange means enthusiasm. But you know what it really stands for? Change,” Aaron Bishop, the commissioner for the Richland County School District One school board, said.
Bishop was one of a number of local leaders from organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Building Better Communities and Moms Demand Action who spoke to the crowd to encourage stricter gun laws and violence prevention.
The rally comes after a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, on May 14, where 19 children and two teachers were killed.
“As we like to say, we fight like mothers for our loved ones.” Arlene Andrews, the election lead for South Carolina’s chapter of Moms Demand Action, said. “Gun violence has become the number one cause of death for children and youth in America. I mean, the outrage of that, and the inaction by elected officials in certain places is beyond belief.”
At the rally, Rep. Jermaine Johnson (D-Richland) asked the crowd to support his house bill which would require individuals to report a loss of a firearm within 24 hours in order to prevent misuse. He said that young people are a necessary part of the gun control movement.
“You really are the future, and young people need to understand that you too can be victims of some of these senseless acts of gun violence,” Johnson said. “We need you because we are dying at this point.”
Graduate chemistry student Nuwanthaka Jayaweera came to the rally with a group of other USC chemistry students. The group wore orange and held signs to show their support.
“Sitting around would not do anything. So we have to raise our voice to at least do something,” Nuwanthaka Jayaweera said.
Nuwanthaka Jayaweera was inspired to attend the rally by his wife, Kamae Jayaweera, an eighth-grade teacher in Richland One.
“I just walk into school thinking like any day, it could be me and my kids. And I hate that that's the reality that I have to teach them, but that's the reality that they have to grow up in,” Kamae Jayaweera said.
Nuwanthaka Jayaweera said he thinks it is important that other educated individuals take action in order to make a difference.
“(Legislators) will figure it out. There's some movement here,” Nuwanthaka Jayaweera said. “So, look at this crowd and look at what is going on and then plan your future. If not, you will go down as well.”