Crowd gathers in Geneva Saturday to rally against gun violence

Maggie Soliz is "horrified" that her seven grandchildren must go through active shooter drills in their schools in case the unthinkable happens.

"I look at my grandkids and I'm in horror what they have to do with these drills, and to think of those kids who saw (the shooting) happen," she said of the 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, who were gunned down in their classroom on Tuesday. "We're being held hostage by lawmakers who will not do their jobs and get AR-15s out of circulation and out of the hands of nonmilitary members."

The Batavia resident said it was important to her to make her voice heard and to show support for more gun laws.

Soliz was part of a crowd that gathered on the lawn of the Kane County Courthouse in Geneva on Saturday afternoon, demanding that lawmakers both at the state and federal levels do more to stop gun violence in the U.S.

The rally was organized by the groups Kane and Kendall Moms Demand Action, Fox Valley Activists, Kane County Coalition and We Can Lead Change-Fox Valley, as well as state House 83rd District candidate Arad Boxenbaum in response to the Texas shooting.

Geneva resident Boxenbaum, 21, said he wanted to help organize the rally because gun violence is the main reason he got involved with politics, in hopes that he can work to change gun policies.

"I've only known a world with constant school shootings," he said. "I don't want another generation to be raised in that same world."

The rally opened with a moment of silence, followed by Stephanie Anthony, pastor of Fox Valley Presbyterian Church, reading aloud the names of the 21 Texas shooting victims.

"For them, and too many others, we draw the line. Enough is enough," she told the crowd.

State Rep. Maura Hirschauer, a Democrat from Batavia, said she wants lawmakers to stop the influx of illegal guns into Illinois from surrounding states like Indiana and Kentucky.

"There's a lot we can do in Springfield, and the best thing we can do is to vote for candidates who share our values," she said. "This is a national crisis, and it's important to honor victims here in Illinois and those in Texas. Our hearts are broken. My job is to come up with common sense laws to make sure dangerous people aren't accessing guns."

Steve McHugh, co-leader of Kane and Kendall Moms Demand Action, said the rally wasn't to "take guns away" but rather to urge support for increased gun safety.

"To create change, we have to have common-sense approaches to safety," he said. "By safety, we mean secure gun storage. I think there is not one solution because we have several issues - mass shootings, gang shootings, suicides. There's also the issues of mental health and assault rifles. The place where we have common ground is the safety part."

Kane County Board Chairwoman Corinne Pierog told the crowd that politicians "just can't blame mental health" when it comes to mass shootings.

"We have dogs that go into our schools to check for guns and drugs in Kane County," she said. "Is that what we want for our kids? I say no. I don't want kids to go to school and worry about being target practice for someone's anger."

Phil Broxham of Elgin Township was holding up signs on the lawn with his family, urging support for more gun laws.

"We can't continue with 'thoughts and prayers,'" he said. "This is yet another tragedy, and we've got to make meaningful changes. There is no reason for military-style weapons. No reason to own them."

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