On March 24, a rally calling for gun control reform was held on High Street in West Chester, Pa. just outside the courthouse. Over 500 people holding signs lined the street to listen to speakers—who organized the March For Our Lives—voice their support of gun control reform. The speakers included students from the local high schools, state representatives, parents and members of local school boards in the area. Chants of “vote, vote!” and “enough is enough” erupted through the crowd, calling on constituents to vote for elected officials in favor of “common sense gun laws.”
One speaker, a parent of two children who attended Sandy Hook during the Sandy Hook school shooting, spoke about the tragedy and how her children were lucky to make it out alive. She spoke about being “proud of the Parkland kids” and their activism regarding gun control. In reference to the phrase “It’s not personal—it’s strictly business” from “The Godfather” that is commonly adopted by businesses, she responded with, “This isn’t business—this is personal.”
A local high school activist spoke on what it felt like to be a high school student in a “world of gun violence.” She described how she and her friends found themselves thinking about the mass shootings during their homecoming dance on Saturday night, recalling the mass shooting in Las Vegas where over 50 people were killed. She says that they live in a world where “classrooms become memorials,” and that she and her classmates have been called upon by their administration to watch their classmates’ social media profiles, which she believes they should not have to do in order to feel safe. Other high school students expressed not feeling safe at school and that they felt the second amendment has become more important than their right to live safely. They noted the state representatives in Pennsylvania that receive money from the National Rifle Association (NRA), and called for an end to lobbying and special interest groups in legislation.
“We need to keep voting,” she said to a cheering crowd. “[The NRA is] fighting for their money; we’re fighting for our lives.”
Among the speakers, several people performed music and read poetry relating to the school tragedies and gun violence. One poem, written by a student activist, was titled “Asked to Write a Eulogy” and talked about the lives lost to gun violence in schools.
Jay Leno, an American comedian, actor and philanthropist made an appearance at the event after visiting his family, voicing his support for the high school activists and supporters.
“It’s great to see so many of you people committed to something so good. It makes me proud to be an American,” said Leno.
His wife, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and chair of the Feminist Majority Foundation, also spoke in favor of the march. She said, “The most important thing you can do is what you are doing right now.”
When asked about how young people can continue to promote change and have their voices be heard, Chloe Vaumann, a student organizer of the march, encouraged young students to “come out to rallies and share your opinion” on gun violence, even when told that they are too young or inexperienced. Hope Hessler, another student organizer, said that students should “not be afraid to talk about [gun violence] in schools.” She said that while students her age cannot yet vote, they can encourage others who can to vote for issues that make a difference.
Mayor Diane Herrin believes that the most important role young people can play in politics and activism is to vote. She wants young students to “evaluate the voting record” and understand what future legislators say and believe in. State representative and former West Chester mayor Carolyn Comitta also commented on the role of young students in activism. She is moved by the “young people standing up for their lives” and encourages students to “vote and work on campaigning.”
For more information on the March For Our Lives campaign, the organization can be found on the March For Our Lives Facebook page, or on Twitter @march4ourliveswc. For more information on State Rep. Carolyn Comitta, students can visit her page at pahouse.com/Comitta or find her on Facebook at State Rep. Carolyn Comitta. Mayor Dianne Herrin can also be found on Facebook.
Samantha Walsh is a third-year student majoring in special education and English with a minor in autistic studies. ✉ SW850037@wcupa.edu.