Students organize, seek gun violence awareness after Florida school shooting


Source: Susan Stocker/Sun Sentinel/TNS

Students protest at Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s office on Wednesday after a gunman killed 17 people at a school last week. A group of Northwestern students will join students activists across the nation in a March 14 walkout.

Alan Perez, Assistant Campus Editor

Farrah Sklar attended school a few miles from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where last week a gunman killed 14 students and three teachers, sparking yet another national debate on gun control.

Sklar said being far from home, she has little agency to advocate on an issue that directly impacts her and her school-age siblings.

“I want to be there doing something about it instead of here just being complicit,” she said. “It’s really scary having them go to school and me not knowing if I’m ever going to see them again. It’s terrifying.”

So, Sklar decided to bring the issue to Northwestern, noting that gun control is a national debate and gun violence impacts many in the Chicago area.

The Communication sophomore is among a group of students seeking to weigh in on the issue with a March 14 walkout, along with other students across the nation. Sklar said the group was formed in response to a lack of conversation on campus and a belief that every student should be politically active.

Valen-Marie Santos, another member of the group, said she hopes the demonstrations will raise awareness while giving concerned students a chance to participate in the discussion.

“I know there are people on this campus who care about this issue and really haven’t found a way to talk about it and fight for what’s right,” the Communication freshman said. “I hope this will give all those students a chance to participate in the movement that’s going on in our nation right now.”

Though they have yet to solidify logistics, Santos said, the group hopes to partner with other student groups and plan a week of events. Other possible actions include painting the rock and writing letters to lawmakers, she added.

Students across the nation, led by student activists from Stoneman Douglas, have embarked on an uphill battle toward gun control. Washington and Florida lawmakers have hosted private and public discussions with parents and survivors, but have yet to to reach a bipartisan agreement on how to stop mass shootings.

Sklar said the demonstrations won’t take partisan stances, but rather seek to raise awareness and action from both sides of the aisle. The group is seeking collaborations with NU College Democrats and College Republicans, she added.

Though the group seeks no political affiliation, Sklar and Santos both expressed opposition to President Donald Trump’s proposal to arm teachers with weapons. Santos said that suggestion was “reactive,” when lawmakers should instead be “proactive.”

“This shouldn’t be something that regularly happens in our country, and I don’t think we should get used to this,” she said.

Sklar and Santos also expressed disappointment that the University administration failed to send out a timely statement.

Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia Telles-Irvin sent out a statement to the NU community on Feb. 22, eight days after the shooting. In the statement, Telles-Irvin encouraged students to reach out to peers personally affected by the “senseless and devastating tragedy” and seek out counseling for themselves if needed.

“This tragic situations can impact everyone in our community, from classmates and friends, to faculty, and staff,” she said in the emailed statement. “In times such as this, I am thankful to be part of a strong community that supports one another.”

The mass shooting in Parkland, Fla. sparked conversation about a number of issues, including mental health treatment and the FBI’s handling of tips on potential violent criminals. Yet the group chose gun control, an issue often discussed after mass shootings, rarely resulting in legislative action.

Santos said though mental health is a topic worth examining, gun control is the most effective action.

“The most effective way to combat this issue is through gun reform,” she said. “Stopping people from having access to such a murderous weapon is step one to stopping these horrible tragedies.”

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