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Hundreds gather to honor gun violence victims, demand change

At least 400 people packed the pews of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church on Sunday to honor lives lost in gun violence.

Around 400 people came out to the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universality Church on Sunday to honor the lives lost to gun violence and demand action.

About one dozen speakers, a majority of them students, shared how gun violence has directly impacted their lives. Speakers called for people to put pressure on lawmakers to pass new gun laws, includes closing the gun show loophole and raising the age required to buy assault rifles.

Students and faith leaders said during the ceremony that now is the time for change.

"People are outraged. People are angry. People are mourning," Feroza Freeland, one of the speakers who lost a friend to gun violence, said. "I know people have been saying that time feels different, and I hope that it is."

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The service was held in the sanctuary of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, where in 2008 a gunman opened fire, killing two church members and injuring several more. Several of the speakers Sunday afternoon were elementary age children at the time of the shooting.

"I think the congregation has a heightened awareness of gun violence, but it's also part of the values of the Unitarian Universalist Association and of this church, is the worth and dignity of human beings," said Jeff Kovac, president of the church's board of directors.

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"We've had how many of these shootings - Las Vegas, other schools, Sandy Hook - and the question is when is something going to happen, and it appears that these kids in Florida are speaking out in a way and challenging authority that maybe this is the time," Kovac said. "We would like to be a part of a local effort and add to that national conversation."

People at the gathering wrote notes on paper heart to the victims of the shooting in Parkland, Florida that will be delivered to the school.

Attendees were also encouraged to write notes to Tennessee's lawmaker. Leaders from Moms Demand Action will hand deliver the notes to representatives in Nashville on March 7.

"We hope that everyone comes out of this feeling united and taking small actions," Moms Demand Action East Tennessee spokesperson Lisa Plawchan said. "If we have people here that have never registered to vote, but now they're registered to vote and now they are starting to pay attention to what their elected officials are saying as it relates to gun sense, that's a win. We need to elect officials that are going to have some gun sense."

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