A large crowd gathered for the National Action Network (NAN) gun control laws reform rally at the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) headquarters.  Protesters began marching to the NRA from Folger Park in Southeast Washington D.C.

Area residents gathered at a National Action Network gun control rally in Southeast D.C. on Aug. 27. (Photo by Linda Poulson)

“We are here because 53 years ago Dr. King and others led hundreds of thousands of people to Washington to change the hateful culture and to change regressive legislation,” the Rev. Kirsten John Foy, northeast regional director for NAN, said at the rally. “We’ve come back today for the same message, the same mission, to change America’s hateful culture and to get legislation passed.”

More than 40 groups participated in the rally, including American Federation of Teachers, Gays Against Guns, The Center for Black Equity, Disarm Hate 2016, and Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights.

“We need assault weapons banned, we need criminal background checks, we need to prevent people that are not allowed to fly in this country from purchasing automatic weapons,” Foy said. “America’s leaders have turned their backs on the responsibility for our safety.”

NAN representatives came from New York, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky. “My purpose here is to rally against gun violence – gun violence especially in the Philadelphia area that has taken a tremendous toll on people,” Deacon Matthew Smith from NAN’s Pennsylvania Chapter told the AFRO. “There is gun violence daily, it’s getting worse. Kids innocently playing are being shot. A young girl last night was shot in Camden, N.J. It’s totally out of control.”

According to Gun Violence Archive, a not for profit corporation formed to provide public access to information about gun-related violence in the United States, there have been 9,462 gun-related deaths so far this year. “Our purpose for being here is to take action to fight for what we believe in. There should be some common laws for gun restrictions for people in general,” Jackie Mayfield, who is with the NAN’s Louisville, Kent chapter told the AFRO. “Not Black, not White, but everyone. Our children are dying.”

Mayfield said that crime rate has risen significantly in Louisville. “There’s no hope anymore, no job opportunities, convicted felons don’t have a chance, we’re trying to bring back hope.”

According to Louisville’s Courier-Journa}, the homicide rate has been worse in 36 years. In 2015, there were 84 homicides compared to 57 in 2014, a 47 percent jump with two thirds of the victims being Black, who make up 22 percent of the population. “We’ve reached our saturation point,” Foy said. “This is not a one-shot deal. We have to make sure both candidates are talking about this issue. We came to say to the NRA – your time has come.”

The Rev. Al Sharpton, founder of NAN, was not present at the rally because he was attending the funeral of journalist/civil rights activist George Curry in Tuscaloosa, Ala.