LTE: Saving lives isn’t a social agenda

Lily Cohen, Op-Ed Contributor

Content warning: This article contains mentions of gun violence and death.

Firearms are now the leading cause of death for kids, teenagers and college-aged people. Caleb Nunes’ piece, titled “Northwestern should prioritize profit over social agendas,” only proves that he personally prefers lining the pockets of powerful institutions over protecting his peers from the harm caused by the gun industry.

Nunes attempts to label students who advocate for commonsense solutions to gun violence through legislative reform and industry accountability as “gun control advocates.” In doing so, he pushes the harmful narrative that gun violence prevention advocates want to take firearms away from responsible, law-abiding people. The term “gun control” weaponizes gun safety measures while generating fear and resistance among gun owners, supporters of the National Rifle Association and firearm manufacturers and dealers.

As a self-described “gun safety advocate,” I have no interest in removing guns from the hands of those who pass extensive background checks, undergo firearm training and securely store their weapons.

University-wide efforts to divest from gun manufacturers are not gun control. Instead, these are strategies to hold the gun industry accountable for the deaths it is responsible for. Every day, 120 people are killed in acts of gun violence, including those murdered in mass shootings in their classrooms and in daily violence on their streets.

Not only does the gun industry perpetrate the national slaughter of young people, but it actively markets to us as well. The Remington Firearms case is a prime example. After being sued for allegedly marketing their assault rifles to young men, including the 20-year-old shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Remington reached a $73 million settlement with the families of the shooting’s victims. This case is just one of several lawsuits that have been brought against gun manufacturers.

Nunes does admit the possibility that a “small portion” of the University’s endowment funds may be invested in the gun industry but refuses to recognize the harm this money can cause or the scope of the investment. I would like to remind Nunes and every reader that any portion of a $14.4 billion endowment is significant. Even just 1% is $144 million.

Nunes closes out the piece by expressing concern about “the long-term future of NU” which he fears will be “greatly diminished at its own students’ expense.” I share his concern for the future of NU, but for evidently different reasons.

According to the NU Investment Office website, “The Investment Office acts as stewards of Northwestern University’s Endowment in order to provide a stable and growing stream of income to support the University’s academic and research goals for current and future generations.” 

Nunes’ mention of NU’s long-term future echoes the language of “current and future generations” found in the Investment Office’s mission. The University’s word choice conveys confidence that it will fill classrooms of students for years to come.

My question to both Nunes and the Investment Office is this: What future generations will NU serve in the long term if young people in this country continue to be targets of gun violence? What student body will the University be able to support if future students are shot and killed in their elementary schools, movie theaters, supermarkets or places of worship before their freshman year even begins?

NU has a responsibility, first and foremost, to its students and their futures. Gun manufacturers are actively contributing to the gun violence epidemic that is stealing our futures from us. 

Saving lives is not a social agenda. In the long term, it’s a business decision to ensure the University has a student body for years to come. 

Lily Cohen is a Weinberg junior. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.