VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - A crowd of around 70 people gathered at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center on Saturday afternoon to protest gun violence.
Organized by Political Action Committee founder Neil Smith, the event was a local version of the national March For Our Lives in Washington, D.C.
Equipped with signs, those who spoke said they were teachers, students, veterans and more, with one thing in coming: The belief that more gun control laws are at least part of the equation in stopping mass shootings in the United States, including raising the age limit to buy certain types of guns.
"The key word is common sense gun legislation and responsible ownership. It's not about taking away guns. It's about ensuring that we educate people," said Smith, who formed Catalyst for Change in 2021.
Smith said he organized the gathering after seeing Hampton Roads did not have a March For Our Lives event listed on the national event website. There was some confusion when he says a similar gathering was also then scheduled in Norfolk, but when that event was canceled, Smith decided to keep his on the calendar.
The gathering went largely uninterrupted, save for a voice nearby shouting "guns save lives" early on.
"They do. They also kill a lot of people. Guns didn't save lives in Uvalde, guns didn't save lives in Buffalo," Smith said in response, also adding that he is for measures to address mental health.
The event was held in front of the Virginia Beach City Hall, which also happens to sit feet away from Municipal Building 2, site of the 2019 mass shooting when 12 were shot and killed. Smith says he chose the location because it's easy to get to, but it didn't hurt to have that reminder of what can happen and has.
"I think it does drive home the point a little bit more."