HELENA – It’s been nearly a month since a shooter claimed the lives of seventeen victims at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
Tuesday evening, Montanans gathered on the steps of the state capitol to remember each of those victims as well as call for an end to gun violence.
“We weep for the 14 children and 3 adults tragically and senselessly gunned down at their high school in Parkland, Florida,” a speaker said before the audience of about 50.
Colleen Grass, group leader with the Helena chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, said many people have been affected by gun violence and her group wants to put an end to it.
“We’re not going to stand for this. Our lives are in danger and we’re standing up,” Grass said.
According to Grass, Moms Demand Action was formed in the wake of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary that killed nearly two dozen children.
“So many people have been bereaved because of gun violence,” Grass said.
The Helena chapter of the group now has about 40 active members including some state lawmakers. The group is focused on creating legislation around guns and closing loopholes they say allow guns to fall into the hands of the wrong people.
Another group, the newly formed Helena Youth Against Gun Violence, was involved in Tuesday’s vigil.
Cal Irvin, a junior at Capital High School and member of the group, was among those to read from the list of victims at the vigil.
“It’s a sad reason that I have to be a part of this group,” Irvin said. “But we’re trying to create a pause in time…in culture…where we can really recognize how tragic an event this was.”
On Wednesday, students at Capital High School and Helena High School are expected to walk out of classes at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes to honor the 17 victims in Florida.
Helena School District Assistant Superintendent Greg Upham said parents will need to excuse children from class for the walkout, otherwise it will be counted as an unexcused absence. The school district is also increasing security at the high schools in preparation for the walkout.