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Parents fearful for child’s safety, join movement to prevent gun violence

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- As Washington D.C. area students staged a "lie-in" outside the White House Monday, several Chesterfield parents also joined the national dialogue on gun violence prevention.

More than a hundred people, mostly parents of ​Chesterfield County students, met Monday evening to discuss advocacy in the wake of the Florida school shooting that claimed 17 lives.

The Gun Violence Prevention Advocacy group is part of the Liberal Women of Chesterfield County movement. However, a bipartisan group of parents met Monday night at Candela's Restaurant to discuss change in gun laws and school safety initiatives.

"The problem is that it shouldn't come to our young people," said group leader Kelly Steele. "As adults we should have been at the forefront of this long ago."

The group listened to a presentation from Lori Haas, whose daughter was injured in the Virginia Tech mass shooting in 2007. Haas shared ideas on grassroot movements that could invoke change at the state and national level.

Just a week earlier, only a dozen parents attended the same advocacy meeting, but last week's school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, struck fear in several parents who say they are concerned about their children's safety and emotional well-being.

"The day after the shooting, I dropped off my high schooler at James River and I said, 'I love you,'" said parent Gena Reeder. "I pulled away and prayed that God would bring him back."

The parents voiced frustration over failed attempts to amend gun laws in Virginia. They say of the more than 80 gun bills introduced at the General Assembly this year, only two have advanced.

"A mother shouldn't feel that she's sending her child off to war, when you're sending your child off to school," said Reeder.​

After the presentation, the crowd split into several groups to discuss ways to improve school safety, increase awareness on domestic violence and mental health issues and reach lawmakers.

The group is planning to present some of their ideas to the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors and school board leaders. They are also planning a Richmond march on March 24, the same day as the National March on Washington led by several students.

"Until the time we can remove the legislators who aren't working with us, we're going to try to come up with some really good ideas," said parent Karen Peters. "We're going to work really hard until we see some changes or we're going to die trying."​