LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A national political debate played out in downtown Louisville Thursday night as hundreds of protesters from across the country and a presidential hopeful demanded action from Senator Mitch McConnell.
Ohio Representative Tim Ryan claims McConnell is blocking gun control legislation and that is why he led a caravan from the Buckeye State to Louisville to increase the pressure.
McConnell responded Thursday, but isn’t planning to call lawmakers back to Washington early. Instead, McConnell said he will make sure the red flag law and background check discussion are brought to the table next month in the regular session. That still was not good enough for the protestors who are demanding action now.
The crowd outside the Muhammad Ali Center chanted things like “Ditch Mitch”, “Do your job” and “Let them [the Senate] vote” directly calling out the Senate Majority Leader, claiming he's not doing his job by waiting to bring up red flag laws and bills that would expand background checks. It's a belief so strong, there were people who travelled from states even farther than Ohio, like Michigan, Pennsylvania and even California.
“We need more people,” said Carol Clark, of Louisville.
“We’re hoping this place gets packed,” added her friend, Paula Oehler.
Clark and Oehler believe citizen protest is the only way to get action and to at least get the bills to the floor.
“If it doesn’t pass that’s fine, but at least we’ll have everyone on record for who voted for what,” said Oehler.
“How many more people have to die before something is done?” asked Kristen Mack who recently moved from Ohio to Louisville.
However, Mack feels confident in the turnout at the Ali Center. “It makes me feel optimistic that maybe this time something will happen.”
“I think this is how we are going to get things done,” said Kristine Woodward with the Ohio Chapter of Moms Demand Action. “It’s not going to get done any other way and if it doesn’t work you bet you’ll see all these red shirts out for the 2020 election.”
Chapters of Moms Demand Action from Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois came to show support.
A woman from Dayton, Ohio sitting with one of the chapters was moved to tears the entire rally. The recent mass shooting was Sandra Ison's second experience. In 2016, her son's school was attacked by a shooter.
Last weekend's massacre was especially heart breaking. Ison found out someone she knew was killed while authorities read out the victim's names at the vigil.
“Nobody needs to get a text from your best friend that there’s an active shooter in the school,” said Ison. “Nobody needs to wake up with a text asking if your friends alive or dead. You do your job [McConnell} or you’re out the door. We will vote you out in whatever way we can. We will knock on doors, we don’t care, we don’t want our children shot anymore.”
Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY3), along with State representatives Nima Kulkarni, Attica Scott and Reginald Meeks, addressed the crowd. Yarmuth told the crowd the Muhammad Ali Center wanted to step up and be the venue of the rally.
Father and lawyer, Holland Home survived a mass shooting in 1997 in Paducah, Kentucky. He says a fellow freshman opened fire on a crowd of kids just finishing their morning prayers.
“I still carry with me today the sound of those pops like balloons or firecrackers, but so much worse, ringing out in that lobby,” recalled Home. “I still carry the sound of anguish from my hurt classmates and the sight of red blood on a white tile floor. I remember lying on that cold tile floor, touching the side of my head, pulling my hand back down and seeing blood, my blood on my finger tips and I realized then I had been shot in the head. I remember saying what I thought would be my final prayer and readying myself to die at 14 years old.”
Home said three classmates died and five were injured and he remembers politicians like McConnell offering prayers
“I was shot in a prayer group, so what’s your Plan B?” Home asked McConnell. “Your thoughts and your prayers were not enough to stop gun violence for over 20 years and they’re not enough to stop the killing now.”
Ryan wrapped up the event warning lawmakers to keep special interest groups out of politics and keep Americans from living in fear.