On a day for students, adults look to confront Sen. Richard Burr

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(photo by Lauren Barber)

As students across the nation participate in National Walkout Day on the 1-month anniversary of the murders of 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, parents and adults organized to demonstrate solidarity and take political action.

Several dozen community members demonstrated on the lawn outside Senator Richard Burr’s Winston-Salem office this morning. Over the course of his tenure in office, the North Carolina senator has accepted more than $7 million from the NRA, the second highest amount of any senator behind John McCain.

“As long as he has that kind of support from the NRA he’s not going to come up with serious solutions to a serious problem,” said Jonathan Milner, a former teacher of 22 years. “My kids don’t feel safe going to school. I don’t feel safe dropping them off…. We’re here to speak to the senator and let him know that we are unhappy with the ideas he’s coming up with. He needs to do something to make school safe.”

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Jonathan Milner holds a sign reading “Books not Bullets” as his spouse Carrie Clifford addresses demonstrators. She secured the permit for the protest. (photo by Lauren Barber)

Forsyth County Board of Education member of 12 years Elisabeth Motsinger also joined the protest. Addressing fellow demonstrators, she said, “An active shooter drill is an enforced form of trauma for every single child who experiences it and we’ve got to stop making those kinds of trauma invisible; they’re real.”

Wade Wilson echoed Motsinger’s sentiment.

“I grew up in California and we had earthquake drills,” Wilson said. “But now the kids have to practice hiding from a shooter. It’s so unnerving that our children are experiencing that.”

His spouse Allison Wilson dressed in a bright red cloak and white hat in a dystopian homage to “The Handmaid’s Tale,” underscoring connections between gun violence and misogyny. An analysis from Everytown for Gun Safety of FBI data and media reports found that more than half of mass shootings are related to domestic or family violence.

“It’s all tied together,” she said. “It’s overwhelmingly men committing these mass shootings.”

Like many parents, the Wilsons are navigating raising children in this era of increasing gun violence in schools.

“My 8-year-old daughter asked me last week if someone would murder her in school with a gun,” Allison said. “People’s children shouldn’t have to fear that… because people love their guns more than they love people. The senators aren’t being hunted, but the students are being hunted in their schools. If senators were being hunted on the Senate floor, maybe they would change things.”

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Kindergarten teacher Christie Robinson delivered a speech at the demonstration, drawing on her experiences on the front lines of this issue.

“Plastic and plywood cubbies used to just be storage for Goldfish crackers and gold-star art projects; now cubbies are a flimsy barricade to protect 19 children from bullets ripping through their tiny bodies,” Robinson said. “My fingers often brush back tears after a minor fall on the playground; on other days, my fingers wipe away tears of true panic as an administrator rattles the door to simulate a person trying to break into our classroom and murder defenseless children.”

Robinson advocated several policies: closing background-check loopholes; raising the legal limit for gun purchasing to 21; and banning the sale of military-style weapons to citizens. She said that further interventions like funding in-school counselors and addressing bullying are imperative next-steps and issued a direct call-to-action to her senator.

“I am not speaking today to try to humiliate you or come to conclusions about your character,” Robinson said. “Despite your previous loyalty to the NRA and the gun lobby, you are liberated in your unique position in your last term as senator to finally do what is right for our children… Do you want to be remembered as the senator who was silenced by $7 million or do you want to be remembered as the statesman who stood up, changed his mind and protected our children?”

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Kindergarten teacher Christie Robinson addresses demonstrators outside Senator Richard Burr’s Winston-Salem office. (photo by Lauren Barber)

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