Four members of Georgetown Against Gun Violence participated in a rally and press conference co-sponsored by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Generation Progress on the Capitol’s West Lawn on Oct. 6.
GAGV co-founder Sarah Clements (COL ’18) of Newtown, Conn., said the rally was a reaction to last week’s shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., that killed nine people Oct. 1.
“We’re fed up,” Clements said. “We’re tired of our communities being the targets and the reason why is seeing the impact of Congress’ inaction on this issue for decades and decades. They have hidden behind the gun lobby and I feel the tide’s changing. The media’s response is changing. Journalists are fed up with covering these incidents over and over again and the public is turning away from the gun lobby, turning away from their talking points, and we’re finally winning this thing.”
The rally drew a crowd of around 50 people, including students from The George Washington University and American University and culminated in a letter delivery to Speaker of the House John Boehner’s office.
GAGV, which has previously co-hosted events with the Brady Campaign, aims to promote gun-sense issue voting among youth through activism on campus. The organization held a candlelight vigil with Campus Ministry for the victims in Oregon in Dahlgren Quadrangle the evening of Oct. 1. Moving forward, GAGV members are using #StudentsRising on social media to draw attention to the issue.
Members were invited to participate in the rally by an American University student working on the Brady Campaign.
There is currently a legislative push for the expansion of
tion Act to include more extensive background checks, enacted in 1993, which mandates federal background checks on potential firearms buyers.
President and co-founder Emma Iannini (SFS ’16) spoke about her resolution to tackle issues surrounding gun control legislation over the past three years.
“We’re counting up to the 150th school shooting that’s taken place in the three years since Sandy Hook,” Iannini said. “That is a shame, a blight on this beautiful country, and we shouldn’t accept that. But we know that with each and every incident that it’s the beginning of the end and that each one, at least for me, strengthens my resolve, my recommitment to dedicate my life to changing things.”
Iannini also compared gun lobbyists’ positions to those of car and tobacco manufacturers against safety measures like seat belts and cancer warnings, respectively.
“I am fully confident that we will come back here by the time that my generation is running this country and we will say, ‘What were we thinking 50 years ago? How could we have let the unabated carnage continue shooting after shooting?’” Iannini said.
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) joined the student speakers to introduce a resolution to make June National Gun Safety Awareness Month.
Norton encouraged continued student activism past this particular rally, also citing youth-populated locations like schools and movie theaters as common targets for mass shootings.
“If this is a one-day deal, expect that it will not have the effect you should have,” Norton said. “I would like to see young people on the case of gun safety in a continuous way, stressing that this is a city with an extraordinary number of gun people who are at particular risk. Then, I think you will get the attention of the Congress. It does not mind episodic attention. It wants constant attention if you want the Congress to do something.”
Clements echoed Norton’s sentiments, urging students to become more involved in gun control activism.
“As college students, as millennials, as the next generation, we have a responsibility to stand up and break that silence,” Clements said. “We must demand that Congress takes action and if they don’t, then we will vote them out.”
According to Iannini, the students present at the rally met a measured response at Boehner’s office.
“They only cracked the door open slightly and we spoke to one of the speaker’s staffers and then they politely told us that we needed to leave,” Iannini said.
GAGV member and rally participant Kate Sullivan (COL ’17) described speaking up in a “U.S. Political Systems” lecture last week after receiving news of the UCC shooting.
“I basically told the class, ‘Listen, there was just a shooting in Oregon at a community college, and I’m wondering when are people going to realize that protecting certain civil rights and liberties actually isn’t what’s best for society, that it’s not worth it,’” Sullivan said. “People need to realize what’s best for everyone as a whole instead of holding onto this idea, this amendment that was ratified in 1791.”
Annie Hill (SFS ’16), also a member of GAGV who attended, highlighted the momentum the gun reform movement is gaining and expressed hope that the process will continue.
“I think that you just kind of have to have hope in the American people that at a certain point you are going to have to start valuing human lives over liking guns,” Hill said. “This is a problem that’s not going to be going away unless we make a change, and it’s a problem that we’re seeing more and more frequently, and it’s breaking more and more hearts across the country. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon, but it’s starting to pick up the pace.”