Community Politics

Democratic Presidential hopeful and Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan held a rally in Louisville Thursday evening to demand Mitch McConnell take action on gun reform.

Congressman John Yarmuth, state lawmakers and local advocates spoke to the crowd at an outdoor amphitheater beside the Muhammad Ali Center.

With only 24 hours notice, 300-400 people packed into the rows of the outdoor amphitheater and spilled out onto the concrete to express their advocacy for gun reform legislation.

The crowd was a sea of red, white and blue. Red shirts from Mothers Demand Action For Gun Sense in America, blue banners saying “We’ve had enough” and “March For Our Lives,” and homemade white signs with phrases like “Make America Safe Again.”

Ryan Van Velzer | wfpl.org

Attendees at a rally in downtown Louisville on August 8, 2019, urging Congress to vote on gun reform legislation.

Behind them, the sun cast a glow reflected against the windows of the Muhammad Ali Center where speakers took the stage. The rally wasn’t so much a series of speeches as it was a dialogue, a call and response session. Between each speaker, the crowd chanted “Bring it to the Floor.”

The demand was clear. The crowd wanted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to take up the comprehensive gun reform legislation passed in the House earlier this year.

But Cathy Mekus with Kentucky’s branch of Mothers Demand Action spelled out the specifics. She wants to see expanded background checks and an end to the so-called Charleston loophole that would close a gap in the background check system. Mekus also called for a federal red flag law that would allow family members and officers to get a judicial order to temporarily take away a person’s firearms.

“We are here today to say we want to take action,” Mekus said.

Ryan Van Velzer | wfpl.org

Cheryl Jaggers attends the rally on August 8, 2019, pushing for gun reform legislation.

Kentucky resident Hollan Holm compared McConnell’s response after last weekend’s mass shooting with his reaction in the wake of the 1997 Heath High School shooting in Paducah that left Holm with a bullet in the head.

“And all Mitch McConnell had to offer were his prayers,” he said.

The crowd booed in response.

The call and response act reached a fever pitch as Yarmuth hyped the crowd while Tim Ryan spoke with CNN. Afterward, the presidential hopeful hit the stage.

He talked about the tough week that people have had in Ohio, but said it’s no different than what communities are facing across the county.

“The scourge of gun violence in our country is a black mark on our politics, on our society, on our country, on our leadership,” he said.

In the aftermath, as the crowd dispersed, Jessica Bondia expressed her discomfort with the state of the country.

“I think that when we get to the point where Kevlar is part of back to school shopping that we have a serious problem,” she said. “And I want to do anything I can to try and help with that.”

Ryan Van Velzer | wfpl.org

Gina Williams holds a sign at a rally on August 8, 2019, urging Congress to vote on gun reform legislation.

 

This post has been updated. 

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.