Maija McManus

MassLive: Youth gun control activists plan '50 Miles More: Massachusetts' march to Smith & Wesson

Maija McManus
MassLive: Youth gun control activists plan '50 Miles More: Massachusetts' march to Smith & Wesson

By Kristin LaFratta

It has been four months since students led thousands of people in "March for Our Lives" rallies across Massachusetts to demand stricter gun laws. Now, youth activists are planning another movement to spotlight gun issues: a 50-mile walk across Massachusetts to Smith & Wesson in Springfield.

Non-profit organization "Stop Handgun Violence" and "March for Our Lives: Boston" announced on Thursday plans for a four-day walk beginning August 23. The group is following the lead of another national gun reform movement led by youth known as "50 Miles More."

Activists say they plan to walk from Worcester to Springfield, where they will target gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson. In a scheduled rally for August 26, protestors say they will make demands of Smith & Wesson.

The groups say they will 1.) Demand that the gun company cease manufacturing and distribution of weapons outlawed by the 2004 Massachusetts Assault Weaponry Ban (which includes specific weapons like the AK-47 and Colt AR-15), and 2.) Ask that the company donate $5 million to "research violence caused by Smith & Wesson weapons and monitor illegal use of Smith & Wesson weapons to offset the lack of federal research funding for the gun violence epidemic."

The Springfield gun-maker has often been at odds with Massachusetts' strict gun laws. In 2016, when Attorney General Maura Healey worked to close loopholes that would outlaw "copycat" assault weapons, it was reported that Smith & Wesson donated $500,000 to gun lobbyists leading the fight against Healey.

"This 50 Mile walk is about accountability," student organizer Vikiana Petit-Homme said in a statement.

"Smith & Wesson continues to profit from guns used in horrific mass shootings and daily gun violence in our communities," Petit-Homme added.

The gun used in the Parkland, Florida school shooting, which left 17 dead in February and sparked the national March For Our Lives movement, was a semi-automatic AR-15 manufactured by Smith & Wesson. Shooters also used Smith & Wesson firearms in the 2012 movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, that killed 12, and the 2015 holiday party shooting in San Bernandino, California, that killed 14 people.

The shooter in Parkland used a Smith & Wesson M&P15, a version of the AR-15 military-style rifle, prompting protests in Springfield and legal action by the families of Parkland victims. 

The point of the August rally, youth activists argue, is that the Massachusetts manufacturer should not be able to export products that are illegal within the state and used in high-profile mass shootings.