In response to the Sandy Hook shooting last December, the Georgetown University College Democrats have launched a week of programming centered on discussing gun violence as one of its biennial “issue weeks” designed to highlight salient political issues.
GUCD President Trevor Tezel (SFS ’15) said the group originally considered topics including the environment and alternative energy sources for this semester’s issue week but decided to discuss gun control in light of the Dec. 16 tragedy.
“If there was ever a semester to have an issue week focused on gun violence, this would be the semester,” Tezel said.
The first event of the week featured a presentation by Stop Handgun Violence Chairman John Rosenthal about the government’s role in handgun proliferation in a talk Monday co-sponsored by Georgetown’s Amnesty International.
“This is a public health crisis that is resulting in, today, 87 Americans that wake up will be buried,” Rosenthal said. “Eight kids under [age] 19 … that’s a classroom every three days.”
Rosenthal expressed his disillusionment with the federal government’s ability to regulate firearm sales.
“Having been to the White House today, I can tell you a universal background check for all gun sales will not pass Congress,” Rosenthal said. “Every once in a while, there’s a high-profile massacre … and that seems to get attention.”
Rosenthal disparaged Congress for its inaction in the wake of Sandy Hook and other high-profile shootings.
“Nothing has been done since Newtown,” Rosenthal said. “Six- and seven-year-olds, 20 of them … those are little coffins.”
Rosenthal also discussed the financial influence of companies on U.S. handgun policy.
“Somewhere along the way, we became completely financially co-opted as a country,” Rosenthal said.
Rosenthal rallied students to get involved in the fight for gun control, adding that other movements, such as divestment, also began on college campuses.
“You guys will have to take responsibility for the democracy,” Rosenthal said. “You guys are in a unique position here in D.C. to maybe organize and put heat on Congress.”
National Gun Victims Action Council President and CEO Elliot Fineman will speak Tuesday evening, and GUCD will conclude the week with a screening of “Living for 32,” a documentary submitted to the 2011 Sundance Festival by Colin Goddard, a victim of the 2007 shooting at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and an advocate for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
GUCD and the Georgetown University College Republicans have previously debated gun control. According to GUCR Vice-Chair Mallory Carr (COL ’15), the two organizations agreed upon the necessity of banning high-capacity magazines and instituting increased background checks, including mental health examinations.
“This really isn’t a political issue,” Carr said. “There [are] lives at stake, and Congress needs to look at what works and what doesn’t to reduce the incidences of gun violence. We believe in smart and responsible gun ownership and … so do the Democrats.”
Throughout this issue week, GUCD aims to further focus the spotlight on firearms issues.
“Our main goal is to have the issue at hand become a topic of discussion among the Georgetown regular political discourse, in the same way that recent issues like the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act … or maintaining the Pell Grant program did,” Tezel said.
Students have been inspired by Gun Issue Week’s events so far.
“After hearing [Rosenthal] speak, I wanted to march to the Capitol, get arrested for practicing civil disobedience and break my phone dialing my representatives in Congress,” Zoe Dobkin (SFS ’16) said.