20180219_173148

On Presidents Day, vigil attendees grieved the 17 lives lost in Parkland, Florida at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week. / Photo by Brooke Wanser

By BROOKE WANSER

As dusk fell upon Franklin Monday evening, a small group gathered on Franklin’s town square, holding candles aloft.

Days after the Parkland, Florida shooting that left 17 dead, over two dozen men, women and children attended a candlelight vigil to honor the dead and to call for gun reform measures.

Elizabeth Wanczak, who ran for Ward 4 alderman in the fall, attended the vigil with her young daughter, Clara, and her husband, Nick.

“I know these guns, I’ve been around them. They were designed to kill people,” Nick, who completed two Army tours to the Middle East during the Iraq War, said. “I’m tired of civilians having military grade weapons. Why are civilians having more firepower than our military and our police officers?”

Elizabeth said that for her, the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was the turning point.

“I’m a Texas girl, I’m a firm defender of the Second Amendment,” Elizabeth said. “But I firmly believe we can find some common ground here to protect our kids.”

Several who attended donned red t-shirts, signifying their participation in Moms Demand Action, a nonpartisan group dedicated to addressing a culture of gun violence in the United States.

Pastor Kevin Riggs of Franklin Community Church was asked to attend and speak at the vigil. He read the names of victims, before asking for a moment of silence and praying.

“Father, we ask you to forgive us for making it take things like this to bring us together,” Riggs prayed. “And to call us back to community and to call us back to caring for each other.”

He continued in prayer over the victims, survivors and their families.

“We pray you would continue to give them wisdom and courage as they speak up and ask they take the lead to try to demand something change in our society so we don’t have to keep having these type of events.”

Justin Kanew of College Grove, who is running as a Democrat for the District 7 congressional seat, was also in attendance. He said that the day after last week’s shooting, he asked his daughter’s daycare workers if they had bulletproof glass windows.

“This should not be a partisan issue. These are not Democrat kids or Republican kids,” he said. “These are our kids.”