Thousands of young people are set to descend on Washington, D.C., on Saturday to urge Congress to pass stricter gun laws as bipartisan negotiators work to reach a deal following a spate of recent mass shootings.

The March for Our Lives demonstration will take place less than a month after 19 students and two teachers were killed in a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, and 10 Black people were gunned down in a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y. Similar marches are set to be held in more than 450 cities in the U.S. and around the world on Saturday.

In an exclusive interview with The Hill, Yolanda Renee King, the 13-year-old granddaughter of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. who will give one of the keynote speeches at this weekend’s Washington rally, said youth activists are frustrated after several years of demonstrating and countless deaths.

March for Our Lives was founded after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla., in 2018, drawing more than a million participants that March to its first demonstration in Washington and sister events around the country.

“We’re all coming together because this is unacceptable, and we are demanding that our politicians ban the big rifle assault weapons,” King said. “We have to reduce kids’ anxiety of just going to school and reduce people who look like me’s anxiety to go to the grocery store.”

Saturday’s marches come after the Senate on Friday left town without reaching a deal on gun control legislation in the wake of recent high-profile mass shootings.

Democrats say they are “close” to an agreement with Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, who was picked by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to lead the GOP’s negotiation efforts, but some differences over language remain to be worked out.

The House passed its own version of so-called red flag legislation, which allows courts to bar people deemed to be risks to themselves or others from accessing firearms, earlier this week. The legislation faces a difficult road in the evenly divided Senate, however, where Democrats need bipartisan support to reach the 60-vote threshold required to pass most bills.

“Now is the moment to act and I urge the Senate to pass commonsense gun reforms before more innocent lives are lost,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said in a statement. “These gun violence prevention bills will make a difference – but only if the Senate joins the House in passing them.”

King said she couldn’t predict if things will change following the recent massacres.

“I think definitely with the shooting people pay attention,” she said. “But here’s the issue: After two weeks, the news always has different stories. … We don’t stay with it. People almost forget that we have this problem in this country until another mass shooting happens.”

About 50,000 people are expected to gather Saturday near the Washington Monument, according to a permit filed with the National Park Service. The event is scheduled to take place from noon to 2 p.m.

“I think more people have joined this movement and a lot of people are concerned about this issue,” King said.

She said her parents never pressured her to live up to her assassinated grandfather’s activist legacy.

“In fact, they would always tell me, ‘Yolanda, this work can be hard, and you do not have to do this work if you don’t want to,” she said.

But she’s taken on the activist role to speak out about gun violence.

“It’s been left to my generation to face this — to fight this issue and make sure that generations after us do not have to go through the same thing,” she said. “No one has really done anything and no one has done enough to to really, really tackle this issue and make it easier for people to not be scared.”

Tags Guns safety John Cornyn John Cornyn March For Our Lives martin luther king Martin Luther King Jr. Mitch McConnell Steny Hoyer Steny Hoyer yolanda renee king
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