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Students Rally, Announce Demands For Mass. Gun Maker

Massachusetts 50 Miles More March
Young advocates finish the last portion of their 50-mile march in support of gun control and gun violence research.
Saraya Wintersmith

A coalition of Massachusetts high school students and national gun control activist groups 50 Miles More and March For Our Lives are now calling on Springfield-based firearms manufacturer Smith & Wesson to stop making the kinds of guns banned in the Bay State and to fund gun violence prevention and public health research efforts. The group revealed the specific demands at a rally Sunday directly across the street from the company’s headquarters.

“It’s entirely possible to be a gun manufacturer and on the side of gun violence prevention,” said Vikiana Petit-Homme, executive director of March for Our Lives Boston. "We're demanding that Smith & Wesson donate $5 million to research gun control and gun violence prevention."

Petit-Homme is 17 and a student at Boston Latin Academy. She characterized the group's demands as a chance for the gun maker to take accountability for acts of violence committed with its products.

“With every life hurt and taken by one of their guns, Smith and Wesson is an accomplice — but they don’t have to be,” Petit-Homme said.

The group’s weekend rally ended a four-day, 50-mile march from Worcester to Springfield. Along the last stretch, about 70 counter-protesters lined the opposite side of the street chanting slogans and holding signs supporting Smith & Wesson and the Second Amendment. Police and a volunteer peace group shepherded the 100 students past the gun supporters to their designated spot.

The marchers also demanded Smith & Wesson stop making the types of assault-style weapons banned under a 1998 Massachusetts law. A federal judge upheld the ban earlier this year.

“How, as Massachusetts citizens, can we be okay with them sending weapons that we don't want in our state to other states?” asked Jack Torres, 16, a student at Somerville High School. He pointed to the company’s M&P15 — the type of gun used in a February school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

"We're too late for the 17 killed in Parkland in February by a Smith & Wesson gun. We're too late for the 14 killed in San Bernardino by a Smith & Wesson gun. We're too late for the 12 killed in Aurora by a Smith & Wesson gun, but now, today, together we're here," Torres said to cheers and applause.

The group of mostly teen-aged activists said they're planning unspecified economic actions against Smith & Wesson if the company doesn't heed their demands. They also said they will turn their efforts towards registering young voters.

Smith & Wesson traces its founding back to the 1850s and markets itself as one of the largest handgun manufacturers in the United States.

The company did not respond to WGBH News' multiple calls for comment.

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