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'March For Our Lives' protest held at Arkansas State Capitol

Josie Lenora
Participants in Saturday's march at the Arkansas State Capitol take part in a moment of silence.

Protesters marched in support of new gun control laws at the Arkansas State Capitol on Saturday. It was one of similar demonstrations held around the country.

Also over the weekend, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators announced a deal had been reached on a package of gun-related measures. The proposal would include funding for states that implement so-called "red flag" laws intended to prevent mass shootings.

Sen. John Boozman, a Republican of Arkansas, said Monday he is open to considering the proposal, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, but is waiting to see specifics of the legislation. Only a framework has been reached on the proposal by a group of Senate negotiators.

NPR News reports the agreement has the support of at least 20 senators, including 10 Republicans. It would remove guns from potentially dangerous people, provide money for school safety, expand background checks for gun purchases by people between the ages of 18 and 21 and add penalties for illegal straw purchases.

"I know that people the people that have been negotiating [on] this have worked very hard and worked in good faith," Boozman told the Democrat-Gazette. "I'm really curious what the actual text will look like."

On the state Capitol steps Saturday, demonstrators gave speeches in support of new gun-related laws. The event also encouraged Arkansans voters to back candidates willing to support new legislation tightening gun control.

Jackie Wohlschlaeger, a volunteer who helped organize the event, said the best outcome for the March For Our Lives, would be for Congress to pass the Protecting Our Kids Act. Among other things, it would prohibit the sale of large capacity ammunition magazines and raise the age to purchase a gun.

The legislation was approved by the U.S House of Representatives, but has stalled in the U.S Senate. That was before Sunday's announcement of a bipartisan framework. Wohlschlaeger emphasized she does not support banning all guns.

“I've tried to reach across the aisle and have conversations with friends,” Wohlschlaeger said. “I’ll talk to them about things like common sense control. I am having the discussion on what that looks like. They'll think that I am saying we want to take your guns.”

Josie Lenora
Demonstrators marched toward the Arkansas State Capitol on Saturday calling for new gun control measures.

The marchers walked a half-mile west on W. Capitol Avenue in Little Rock Saturday, finishing in front of the Capitol. Among the phrases protesters chanted were, “no more silence, end gun violence,” and “protect children not guns.”

Dee Sanders, the event's master of ceremonies, said the protest was personal to her as a mother of two children.

“I think, wow we failed these children tremendously. It's not going to get better until we help it get better.”

One of the speakers was Dalton Thompson, a recent college graduate, who talked about the trauma he experienced during school lockdowns as a child.

“First grade and I was already fearing for my life,” he said. “How many days did we waste away cowering in fear in a dark classroom wondering are we about to die, are we about to be slaughtered, are we about to have our names on signs.”

State Sen. Clarke Tucker, D-Little Rock, said last month's school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, which killed 19 elementary students and two teachers, is just the latest in a string of incidents nationwide.

“What about grocery stores like in Buffalo? What about hospitals like in Oklahoma? What about funerals like in Iowa? What about where we are right here right now?”

Josie Lenora is a news anchor and reporter for UA Little Rock Public Radio. She grew up listening to KUAR and NPR News and says she is thrilled to give back to an organization she loves. Josie first interned in the fall of 2021 assisting in production for KUAR and KLRE, then in spring of 2022 spent a semester interning as a new anchor before joining the staff.