Hundreds march in Downtown Atlanta for gun reform and school safety

Sarah Dowling doesn’t know a world where kids are safe from guns at school.

“We’ve grown up doing active shooter drills since before we could even read,” the 17-year-old said.

Dowling is one of the organizers of the Georgia March for Our Lives: a march that went through the Old Fourth Ward – a historic bedrock of the Civil Rights Movements – to Woodruff Park in Downtown Atlanta on Saturday to advocate for safer schools through gun control.

Sarah Dowling, movement organizer for Georgia’s March of Our Lives leads the crowd in a chant during a rally in Woodruff Park, Atlanta, Georgia on Saturday, June 11, 2022. (Matthew Pearson/For WABE)

“We’ve grown up doing active shooter drills since before we could even read.”

Sarah Dowling, Georgia March for Our Lives organizer

They were part of the March for Our Lives protests in cities across the country, packed with students who have demanded gun control for years.

“My first real experience with gun violence was in 2017 or so when my younger sister’s school had a legitimate shooting threat,” Dowling said. “That was such a jarring experience that it really just made me rethink about everything in society.”

Dowling recently graduated from The Lovett School and is heading to the University of Virginia to be a Jefferson Scholar. She said she and her peers would continue to organize marches and informational sessions about gun safety and reform.

“Especially in Georgia, it does take a little bit of effort sometimes to get people to actually want to organize for change,” she said. “But the gun culture is so pervasive that some people just aren’t willing to listen in the first place.”

March for Our Lives calls on voting-age adults across the country to vote for leaders who will help curb gun violence – almost all of the students who marched are too young to vote themselves.

Meanwhile, this year, Gov. Brian Kemp signed a law that allows gun owners to carry concealed weapons in public without a permit.

But that hasn’t stopped Dowling and her peers. She said the country can’t end gun violence if people stop trying for change.