With the epicenter of policymaking looming large in the background, activists on Tuesday placed 7,000 pairs of empty shoes across the Capitol lawn, an impossible-to-ignore symbol of the children lost to gun violence since the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre.
Families who have lost children to shootings were invited to contribute their kids’ shoes, said global advocacy group Avaaz, which organized the event.
“I’ll be traveling to D.C. literally wearing my son Daniel’s shoes, the ones he wore the day he died at Columbine,” said Tom Mauser, whose son was killed in the Columbine mass shooting. “I think this kind of event with shoes offers a very powerful metaphor both for how we miss the victims who once filled those shoes, and also for how we see ourselves wanting to walk in their place, seeking change, so that others don’t have to walk this painful journey.”
People across the country, including celebrities, donated shoes to the display, which Avaaz said covered more than 10,000 square feet of grounds outside the Capitol. Several Democratic lawmakers visited the site, taking the opportunity to call out congressional inaction on gun reform.
According to CNN, Avaaz took the 7,000 figure from a 2017 American Academy of Pediatrics report, which found that almost 1,300 children die from gunshot wounds in the U.S. every year.
Calls for gun reform have intensified in the wake of the mass shooting at Parkland, Florida’s. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last month, when a 19-year-old gunman killed 17 students and school staff.
The push for gun control has had mixed results. Florida Gov. Rick Scott last week signed into law a new gun control bill that enables some teachers who undergo proper training to carry concealed weapons, in addition to other restrictions like raising the minimum purchase age for guns from 18 to 21. The National Rifle Association sued the state in response.
The White House instead unveiled a list of proposals including arming some teachers and enhanced background checks. He also established a Federal Commission on School Safety to provide further recommendations.
The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote Wednesday on a bill to offer more resources to schools, in the form of mental health support, strengthened reporting systems and heightened security. The bill does not mention guns.