Some 200 to 300 people took time out from their weekend this past Saturday and wrote letters supporting gun safety at First Church, Meetinghouse Green.
Kathy McMahon, a First Church congregant, and Kerry Zagarella organized the event.
“We’re trying to prevent the next shooting,” McMahon, assistant principal at Ipswich Middle School, said.
The letter-writing forum was a local response to the Valentine’s Day shooting of 14 students and three faculty members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Nikolas Jacob Cruz, 19, a former student at Stoneman, has confessed to the shootings and used a semi-automatic, military-style AR-15 rifle in the killings.
Ipswich High School and middle school students plan a 17-walkout of their classes at the high school gym on Wednesday, March 14, where they will recite the names of the persons killed in the mass murder.
School Superintendent Brian Blake said the walkout would be closed to the public and said student participation would be voluntary with students supervised either way.
Some letters, at the forum, thanked companies and individuals who had taken pro-gun safety stands such as Gov. Charlie Baker or retailers such as REI, Dicks and Walmart.
Other letters targeted politicians who had taken campaign money from the National Rifle Association and urged them to support gun-safety initiatives.
New gun-safety laws raising the age to buy a military, assault-style rifle to 21 and tighter background checks for those who buy guns seemed to gain momentum after the Parkland shooting.
President Donald Trump supported such measures during an impromptu forum in Washington, D.C., that included Senators and Congressmen and President Trump even teased some of those present for being “afraid of the NRA.”
Trump has since backed off those points and instead turned toward training and arming teachers, a move the NRA supports, but not McMahon.
“It’s asking teachers to be soldiers and that isn’t right. We’re educators,” McMahon said.
Better background checks for those buying guns and increasing the age someone could buy an assault-style rifle to 21 were the two main points the letter-writing forum pushed.
“Overall we’re not asking for a ban on weapons,” Ava Warren, Class of 2019, an Ipswich High School organizer for a high school and middle school 17-minute class walkout scheduled at 10 a.m. March 14. “We just want more control over who gets the weapons.”
Students plan to walkout of class and go to the high school gym and recite the name of each person killed in the Parkland shooting.
“I think the kids walkout is important,” said fellow walkout coordinator Cate Phypers, Class of 2019. “The kids in Parkland don’t want this to happen again.”
Thatch Phypers, 14, and his mother Jackie Phypers, rounded out the family participation at the forum. Thatch said he was writing a letter to Baker. “I’m thanking him for enforcing the gun laws we have, but I want raised to 21 the age to buy a military-style rifle.”
Mom, Jackie, was writing to L.L.Bean urging the retailer to raise the age to buy an assault-style rifle from 18 to 21, as Walmart and Dicks have done.
“Churchgoers. Concertgoers. Students. How many more have to be killed?” McMahon asked rhetorically.