ST. PETER — Sophia Artley, a college student in St. Peter, says her generation is one the first to go through elementary, middle and high school doing active shooter drills.

“I had my first lock-down drill in kindergarten. Those drills became normal, but they weren’t normal. Every time I hid behind my desk, I was scared.”

Artley and others at a March for Our Lives event Saturday afternoon in St. Peter said things can’t continue as they are as the number of mass school shootings and amount of gun violence escalates.

Jennifer Andrashko, with Moms Demand Action, said it is unacceptable that beginning in 2020 gun violence surpassed vehicle crashes as the No. 1 killer of kids. Gun violence, she said, has increased 30% in recent years.

“There are things we know we can do to make us safer from gun violence.”

Peggy Dimock, a high school teacher, said schools and teachers used to always operate on the standard that the first rung of education had to be the security of students. “Safety had to be the first rung needed before education could take place.”

That security rung no longer exists, she said. “You’re asking a lot of kids to learn in school when they don’t feel safe. You’re expecting a lot of teachers.”

The rally was organized by Indivisible St. Peter/Greater Mankato along with Moms Demands Action-St. Peter/Greater Mankato and coincided with March for Our Lives events across the country.

Yuri Hong, of Indivisible, said the rash of violent events recently has spurred more people to action, even as the GOP in the U.S. Senate continues to block gun restriction measures.

“Everyone has been upset with the rash of shootings, especially the one in Texas,” she said of the May 24 attack that killed 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde.

“We can’t keep allowing this. This stuff didn’t use to happen, and we know what needs to be done to stop it.”

She said citizens need to elect lawmakers who will take some common sense steps to slow gun violence, including background checks and preventing people in a mental health crisis from having access to guns. Many at the event also called for a ban on assault-style rifles.

“People need to feel empowered and to fight for this. Even if things don’t change now, some time in the future they will,” Hong said.

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