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12:57 AM Wed, Sept. 19th

Students at Phoenix rally: Vote out officials who won’t act

People participate in a March For Our Lives rally at the state Capitol on Saturday, March 24, 2018, in Phoenix. (Matt York/AP)

People participate in a March For Our Lives rally at the state Capitol on Saturday, March 24, 2018, in Phoenix. (Matt York/AP)

PHOENIX — High school students who helped organize a March For Our Lives rally in Phoenix told a crowd of thousands Saturday they need to vote and cast out officeholders who won’t act on gun control.

“Guess what? We can vote them out. Vote them out,” said Samantha Lekberg, a 16-year-old student at Willow Canyon High School in Surprise.

The March for Our Lives rally and others across the country were organized in the wake of the Valentine Day’s shooting that killed 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Event attendee Alexis Goddare, a 15-year-old ninth-grader at Tonopah Valley High School, held an “Am I Next?” and said she was fearful. “It’s happening everywhere.”

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday proposed a school safety package that include more spending on resource officers and mental health services, a new way to take guns from unstable people and technology fixes to get state convictions into the federal gun background check system faster.

March For Our Lives organizers said they want more, including universal background checks required for gun purchasers and a ban on bump stocks.

Arizona Department of Public Safety officials who monitored the event from the roof of a legislative building estimated the crowd at 15,000. “A good solid 15,000,” added Capt. Ed Sharpensteen.

Dozens of state troopers were present for the event, and a DPS SWAT armored vehicle was parked nearby.

About two-dozen gun-rights supporters staged a counter-protest in the midst of the larger gathering. They held flags and sometimes challenged March for Our Lives participants to debate gun issues.

No incidents were reported other than several people needing medical assistance for heat-related conditions, Sharpensteen said.

Down in southern Arizona, hundreds calling for gun control gathered in downtown Tucson’s Jacome Plaza and then marched to the University of Arizona campus. Among the speakers was Democratic state Rep. Daniel Hernandez Jr.

Hernandez was thrust into the national spotlight after the 2011 shooting in Tucson that left six people dead and several, including former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, wounded. Hernandez was interning for the congresswoman and was credited with helping to save her life.