APPLETON (NBC 26) — People from across the Fox Valley came together Friday night for a rally to end gun violence.
They gathered at Houdini Plaza to honor the lives lost from recent mass shootings at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, a grocery store in Buffalo, New York and a hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
HAPPENING NOW: People are gathering in downtown Appleton for a rally to end gun violence. Organizers say they’re honoring the lives lost in mass shootings in Texas, New York and Oklahoma @NBC26 pic.twitter.com/PH1G8gndrD— Kelsey Dickeson (@KelseyDickeson) June 3, 2022
"We don't have to have any more Uvalde's," said Emily Tseffos, with Forward Appleton. "We don't have to have any more Sandy Hooks. It doesn't have to be how we live. How our kids grow up."
Community members stood along College Avenue holding signs that read, "I Substitute Teach, Not Substitute Police" and "Enough is Enough."
"I'm a retired educator and before I retired, I was involved with intruder drills, huddling in a corner with preschoolers," said Ann Muenster, with the Fox Cities Gun Violence Prevention Team. "I know that I would've taken bullets for those children and every one of my colleagues would do the same. But we can do better than that. We can really do better than that."
The rally included nearly a dozen speakers, including a student from Appleton North High School.
"At any moment, it could be us. It could be any of us," said Mya Koffie, an Appleton student. "You never know when an armed person is going to break into the building somehow."
Recently, Koffie said seniors at her high school popped balloons in the hallways as a harmless prank, a sound she almost mistook for gun fire.
"I wondered, are people being shot right now? Am I going to be shot right now? Is this the last time I'm ever going to walk around a corner? What am I going to find? So I was terrified," Koffie said. "And I think that constitutes being a high schooler in America right now, is you never know when walking around the corner is your last time."
Attendees wore orange for National Gun Violence Awareness Day, which is June 3. The nationwide campaign was created to honor Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old girl who marched in former president Barrack Obama’s second inaugural parade in 2013 and was shot and killed a week later at a playground in Chicago.
Organizers at the Appleton rally said they hope to see more gun reforms moving forward to create a future without violence.
Bipartisan discussions on gun laws are currently underway in Congress.
The House Judiciary Committee approved the "Protecting Our Kids Act" Thursday, a package of gun control legislation proposed by Democrats. Provisions include raising the age to buy certain semiautomatic rifles from 18 to 21, new federal offenses for gun trafficking and strengthening federal regulations on ghost guns.
The effort has some support from Republicans, but many feel some of the proposals infringe on American's 2nd Amendment rights.
The full House is expected to vote on the package next week. If the bill moves forward, it would need 60 votes to avoid a fillibuster in the Senate.