Mon. May 16th, 2022

A call to action arose from 23 student and faculty attendees on Wednesday, Feb. 28 to spread awareness about how to prevent gun violence in schools.

Dr. Hannah Ashley, coordinator of the youth empowerment and urban studies (YES) program, gathered students together to share their thoughts on the issue at hand and how students can be part of this national movement. School shootings stir up many feelings in students, especially considering the amount of school shootings in 2018 alone. CNN writer Darran Simon reports that 12 school shootings have happened. Simon defines school shootings as at least one person being shot on school grounds. The most recent was at Central Michigan University on March 2 where a couple was shot to death in a dormitory, with authorities suspecting their son, a student, as the culprit.

Everyone joined together and discussed how they felt about this national issue while giving ideas on how West Chester University along with neighboring high schools and grade schools can participate in the discourse. Students and faculty shared their thoughts on how this could impact their future as education majors as well as share their apprehension for siblings and children currently in school.

“I think it is important for as many students and faculty as possible to meet about this topic. The more people, the more impact it will have on urging the West Chester University administration to recognize the need for change. Overall, I would urge anyone who is interested in making changes to try and participate in one of the events,” stated sophomore early and special education major Alli Lauletta. Lauletta, along with the other attendees, emphasized how schools are supposed to be a safe space for students to learn.

“I just believe that tragedies like Stoneman Douglas can no longer be tolerated,” said freshman psychology major Jordan Woods. “In years past, America has become too familiar with gun violence, only recognizing tragedies if death counts rise above multiple dozens.”

West Chester University President Christopher Fiorentino emailed the school’s students, faculty and staff in response to the events that took place in Parkland and Central Michigan University. Along with a fact sheet provided by public safety that details how to respond to an active shooter, Fiorentino advocates for all to remain vigilant and contact public safety should one witness suspicious activity.

Specifically, Fiorentino said the following: “The events unfolding at Central Michigan University today and the horrific tragedy in Parkland, Florida cause all of us to pause. While we strive to do everything within our power to keep our campus community safe, we want to make sure that you are aware of the procedures that should be followed should a violent situation ever occur on our campus.”

The topic of gun control has been a frequent topic of conversation in modern U.S history as it has become increasingly relevant. Nineteen of the 30 deadliest shootings in the United States since 1949 have happened in the past 10 years. A key section of the current conversation has come from the victims of the Stoneman Douglass High School shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Currently in Pennsylvania, to purchase a firearm you must be at least 18 years of age. Also, you can never have been convicted of a violent crime, be an undocumented immigrant, a drug or alcohol abuser, declared mentally ill by court or convicted of three separate DUI charges within a five-year period. However, no firearms are known to be prohibited by state law. The sale of handguns must go through a licensed dealer, of which there are currently more than 2,500 in Pennsylvania. Individuals interested in purchasing a firearm will have to fill out an application followed by the dealer sending the information into the Pennsylvania Instant Check System to check if the individual can hold a firearm.

In Florida, the individual does not need a permit or license to buy a gun. They also do not have to register a firearm. Concealed carry licenses are given to applicants 21 or older. Gun control activists across the nation are working to create stricter gun laws in each state. Numerous walk-outs, marches, assemblies, etc., are occurring locally and nationally to fight for gun control. To start off, during our spring break on March 17, there will be the first National School Walkout at 10 a.m. across the United States for 17 minutes to honor each person killed in the Parkland shooting.

Next, on March 24, the March For Our Lives will take place in over 70 cities. Locally, a March for Our Lives will be held in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and possibly in our hometown of West Chester. March For Our Lives’ mission and focus is to demand that a comprehensive and effective bill be brought before Congress to address these gun issues. Some of the gun issues include getting rid of the sale of bump stocks and other accessories that turn semi-automatic weapons into automatic weapons, getting lawmakers to refuse endorsements from the National Rifle Association, more extensive background checks and to create voter registration drives. Over 117 colleges and universities alone have released statements saying their students will not be penalized for participating in a walk-out.

Aside from all of this, schools such as Temple and Pennsylvania State University are hosting teach-ins. Letters are also being written for campaigns for new legislators, to strengthen background checks, to ban assault weapons, closing “gun show” loopholes, etc.

April 20, 2018 is not only the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting, but is now also going to be known as “National Walk Out and Day of Action Against Gun Violence in Schools,” where participants are called to wear orange and walk off campuses at 10 a.m. to peacefully demand that Congress acts on gun control legislation. Pamela LoGioia, Secretary of Languages and Cultures, said, “I think we have to participate locally. This is a crisis in our nation that we have to start locally to make change.”

Attendees of the meeting are starting to form their own call to action at West Chester University. The next meeting will be the Wednesday after spring break on March 21. For more information, contact Caleb Kupa at CK849273@wcupa.edu.

Marie Bray is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies. ✉ MB822035@wcupa.edu.

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