Students Against Gun Violence hosts Gun Violence Awareness Week

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By Melinda Xu, Managing Web Editor

Students file into the room, taking their seats and turning their attention to the speaker at the front of the room. The speaker is Pa. State Rep. Melissa Shusterman, here to talk about gun violence, current legislation and how students can get involved in politics.

Shusterman was one of a series of guest speakers for Students Against Gun Violence’s (SAGV) Gun Violence Awareness Week, which ran from April 8 to 12. The goal was to educate students on the topic of gun violence andto facilitate conversations on guns and gun safety through multiple educational activities, including the speaker series.

“What we aim to do with the awareness week is to teachthe student body about what’s going on right now, about the laws that are in place, bills that might be happening and just generally separating fact from fiction about what causes shootings,” senior and SAGV co-president Anna Donahue said.

In addition to Shusterman, speakers included Ann Colby-Cummings of GunSenseUs, a Chester County based group interested in developing common-sense solutions to reduce gun violence, Shira Goodman of CeaseFirePA, a Pennsylvanian group working for gun reform, and Marybeth Christiansen and Erin Buchner of Moms Demand Action, a grassroots movement fighting for safety measures against gun violence. Their presentations were on current gun legislation, the work of the various groups they are from and how students can influence change through being politically involved.

“I think it’s important for students to talk about any of the hot button issues that affect their lives and see that we can have disagreements and (still) talk civilly,” Goodman said. “I think there were three young men in the back who don’t agree with everything I said, but we all engaged civilly and they came up and thanked me afterwards.”

Junior Lily Bielinski appreciated the opportunity to hear Shusterman’s thoughts.

“I thought everything she talked about was very important based on what’s going around the world,” Bielinski said. “I’m happy that she’s fighting for stricter gun laws and I think what she said about reaching out to your local representatives is really important and something that can go a long way.”

The club also held multiple activities each day for the week in the main lobby, including selling T-shirts and pins to raise money for gun violence awareness. Previously, they have donated to Sandy Hook Promise and the Anti-Violence Partnership of Philadelphia.

“We’ve chosen those because they’re nonpartisan groups that work proactively against gun violence rather than reactively,” junior Percy Kaylor, treasurer of SAGV, said.

Throughout the week, SAGV also encouraged students to express their opinions.

“We (had) a large board from the art department where students (could) write opinions on a post-it note and put it on there,” Donahue said.

Through these activities, the club wished to help students see the importance of having conversations about gun violence.

“This isn’t just an issue at the inner city or New Zealand, it’s an issue that can affect us here and it’s important to talk about and see what we can do to make a difference,” Kaylor said.

This is not the first time SAGV has held a schoolwide event to promote gun violence awareness. Last year the club hosted a teach-in day where they had similar activities. These included a poster for students to sign their names in solidarity against gun violence and hosting speakers to promote discussion. They chose to expand the event to a week this year.

“We wanted to be able to address lots of different facets of the topic because there are lots of things that factor into gun violence,” Donahue said.

SAGV plans to have a similar event next year.