STOCKTON -- Dozens came together, some on a moment's notice, Tuesday in Stockton -- all reeling from a horrific, deadly week in America.
Retired teacher Julie Schardt remembers when she thought this type of violence was unimaginable, until on January 17, 1989, when a man opened fire on her students and coworkers at Cleveland Elementary School.
Patrick Edward Purdy killed five children that day.
"We thought it was an anomaly," Schardt said. "It just seemed unusual and it seemed unreal."
In the years since, survivors coped with their own experiences and sympathizing with the victims of Killeen, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, Tucson and Aurora.
Then, in 2012, the Sandy Hook school shooting happened. Twenty-seven people, 20 of them children, were killed.
"They were the same age as the children on the playground at Cleveland school," Schardt said.
The event turned their agony into activism and calls for stricter gun laws but not much has changed since.
"I think it's been like two steps forward and one step back. Nothing has happened but that’s not to say there's not more people speaking out," Schardt said.
Schardt said her group's message is not political though the gun debate often becomes political.
"We have to remove people from office who continue to support the gun industry," U.S. Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, said.
McNerney urged the crowd Tuesday to call on the Senate to take up HR 8 and HR 1112, the universal background check and 10 days waiting period for gun purchase bills which have already passed the Democrat-majority House of Representatives.