Gun Violence Is More than School Shootings: Parkland Students Visit AU

BY ZSHEKINAH COLLIER

 Photo by Amanda Nyang’oro

Photo by Amanda Nyang’oro

“You can't talk about gun violence unless you address systematic poverty, racism and educational disparities,” said Jaclyn Corin, gun control advocate and gun violence survivor. Along with Corin, Samantha Fuentes and David Hogg, current and alumni students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL came to visit American University in early October.

The students, survivors of the third deadliest school shooting in American history, were invited by American University’s Kennedy Political Union (KPU), School of Education and Washington College of Law to be apart of the Larissa Gerstel Critical Literacy and Social Justice Symposium. The Parkland students discussed the upcoming midterm elections, gun control advocacy, gun violence in America and the March for Our Lives Campaign on the panel moderated by School of Education Dean Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy.

 Photo by Amanda Nyang’oro

Photo by Amanda Nyang’oro

They clarified their movement’s goal is not to ban or take away all guns, but to promote and fight for gun safety. “ We are pro-gun safety and anti-gun violence,” Hogg said. “This is not a question of being pro-second amendment or anti-second amendment, it’s a question about if you’re pro-public health and whether or not you're anti kids dying in their schools and communities every day.”

Intersectionality of issues was a major focus of their talk. Hogg repeatedly acknowledged that gun violence expands beyond school shootings. He and the other students shared stories of friends living in communities across the country that experience gun violence at high rates. “At the end of the day, I experienced gun violence one day in a school and obviously we can’t compare tragedies, but my experience does not correlate directly with the experience of my friend Bria that falls asleep to gunshots every night,” said Corin.

When discussing gun violence the media often ignores communities and the people affected by it every day. Hogg said that often when news outlets interview him they want him to tell the “white story” and not the American story of how everyone of all different colors, zip codes, religions are affected by gun violence.

“Gun violence is nondiscriminatory and bullets don't see color,” Fuentes said, “I was shot in my classroom, but there are people every day being shot in their homes, on their streets and in their churches.” The students said they believe in using their national platform to change the media’s narrative surrounding gun violence in communities of color.

They said they want to continue to create space and opportunities for people of color to publicly share their experiences. On the nationwide ”Road to Change” tour, Parkland students invited teens that have experienced gun violence in their communities to join them.“ We don't just talk the talk, we walk the walk,” Hogg said.

With midterm elections around the corner, the Parkland students encouraged the audience to go out and vote on Nov. 6, no matter their political affiliation. “Gun violence is not and should not be a partisan issue,” Hogg said. The young activists also reminded the audience that a major way to make change is to shift the culture of voting for younger generations and understanding that they don't need empowerment because they’ve always had the power to create change.


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