Hendersonville turned out marchers in the hundreds for its observance of the March For Our Lives on March 24 (see also Xpress‘ coverage of the march in Asheville here). More than 500 participants processed from Hendersonville High down Main Street to the old county courthouse. There, a contingent of high school students, many from Outdoor Academy in Brevard, led the crowd in chants of “Bury guns, not kids” and “We call BS! Why should our voices mean less?” before the crowd decamped for — of all places — Sanctuary Brewing Co. (Soda was served.)
John Moore, a student at AB Tech and Hendersonville resident, held up a sign reading, “The only thing easier to buy than a gun is a politician.” Moore helped to organize the event, and is no stranger to political action: Hoping to give millennials a voice in government, he ran a write-in campaign for Hendersonville City Council last year, despite being under the minimum age of 21.
Moore describes a feeling of unease that pervades campus these days: “I’m sitting in a classroom and I’m looking at the door wondering what will happen if a live shooter comes in. Knowing what’s going on, you’re sort of wondering if our campus will be the next campus that it happens on.”
Ashleigh Jackson, a student at Blue Ridge Community College, co-organized the event with Moore. She is studying to become a preschool teacher and is already getting her hours in the classroom in. “It’s just important for me as a teacher to be an advocate for my kids,” Jackson said. “For any teacher, really. I called John Moore. I said, ‘Everyone expects a march in Asheville, but what are we going to do in Hendersonville?”
Despite the large turnout, not everyone was satisfied. “What’s really sad about East Henderson High is a lot of kids really don’t care,” said Kris Saucedo, a student at the school. “We’re really excited by those kids that are out here, but it’s like two of us. Where were we? It’s easy to look away when things don’t affect you, but these things affect everyone.”
Bruce Holt, a musician in Hendersonville, felt even more pessimistic. He had come to the march at the behest of his wife, a teacher. “The situation just sucks,” Holt said. “There are 300 million guns, and we’ll never get rid of all of them. Unfortunately, I think that arming yourself is probably the best thing. Not that I want to. I just think that protection is going to be your best bet.” He and his wife recently applied for concealed carry permits.
Still, the mood was mostly can-do. “I don’t know why this time is different, because it happens all the time,” said Ruby Gates, a student at Outdoor Academy originally from Albuquerque. “But I think it’s amazing that young people are speaking out.”
James Horowitz, a pediatrician in Hendersonville, took the stage at Sanctuary to second that notion. He described surviving a school shooting while a college student at Michigan in 1980. And then “nothing happened,” he said, happily contrasting robust activism of young people after the Parkland, Fla., shooting with that earlier silence.
Gayle Kemp, who is challenging Chuck McGrady to represent Henderson County in the N.C. House of Representatives, took the stage at Sanctuary to call out local pro-gun politicians. “Cody Henson, Chuck McGrady and Chuck Edwards voted for sheriffs to have the power to decide if a person is stable enough to own a gun,” she said, claiming that such a personal test is certainly unreliable. She exhorted the crowd to vote for politicians that will take on the National Rifle Association, which the marchers identified as the main villain in gun violence.
Moore, the event’s organizer, is also keeping politicians in mind. “We’re not going to be done marching and raising our voices until politicians take action,” he said. “Until they pass legislation to end this epidemic of gun violence that’s plaguing our schools and our churches and our public spaces. We’re not going to stop until something gets done.”