Student activism: A part of something bigger

May 4, 2018 — by Lina Kim

Preparing to leave my house for the first March For Our Lives San Jose meeting in early March, I felt my heart hammering against my chest. A million thoughts tormented my head: Who will be there? What will the people be like? Are my abilities useful and worthy enough to participate in something so impactful? Briefly, I considered staying in the comforts of my home.

Getting myself together, I reminded myself that going to the march wouldn’t hurt me in any way, but staying home would; I would miss out on an opportunity to participate in progressing change, especially in a movement that is personally important to me due to my motive to end gun violence.

March For Our Lives San Jose is part of the #MarchForOurLives movement, which is spreading across America and around the world. This movement is led by students, all with the goal of having their voices heard in gun violence issues. Participants are demanding that an inclusive, effectual bill, addressing gun control, be brought before Congress.

According to the March For Our Lives mission statement, the bill would comprehend “universal, comprehensive background checks, bringing the ATF, who’s in charge of regulating the gun industry, into the 21st century with a digitized, searchable database, funds for the Center for Disease Control to research the gun violence epidemic in America, a high-capacity magazine ban, and assault weapons ban.”

Upon arriving at the meeting, which was held at the Billy DeFrank LGBT Community Center in San Jose, I saw it consisted of mostly high school students, some middle school students and even one or two elementary school students.

Seven Prospect High students, the masterminds behind the March For Our Lives San Jose march, started by introducing themselves and explaining the movement. They then discussed what needed to be done and the roles of the different subcommittees, such as the outreach committee and artistic committee.

I decided to join the fundraising committee, where I would not only spread awareness of the march, but also convince people to invest in the march financially by  donating on the GoFundMe page or buying apparel.

The next few weeks after the meeting consisted of  spreading information about the march through social media, putting up fliers wherever I went and sharing information with teachers and classmates.

As a part of the fundraising committee, the other members and I often went to the Snake & Butterfly, a coffee shop located in Campbell that let us fundraise in the front of their store. With a stack of flyers, stickers and T-shirts, we attempted to stop passersby and notify them of the upcoming march.

Not everyone shared our views. An older, white male came up to my group and asked why he and other gun owners should lose their right to own a gun, comparing the right to own an AR-15, a semi-automatic assault rifle, to other rights like freedom of speech. He continued to say that he should keep the right to protect himself with an AR-15.

Patiently, my peers attempted to explain to him that an AR-15 was not necessary to protect oneself, outlining the bill proposed by MFOL. The AR-15 is a militia gun that was created for use in battle: It can be used to kill an immense number of people in a short amount of time.

In the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, for example, Adam Lanza used a Bushmaster AR-15 to blast 150 rounds in less than five minutes, murdering 20 first-graders and six adults.

The man continued to spew his opinions in defense of the rights of gun owners, while talking over us. It was clear he was not even attempting to listen.

In that moment, it was hard for me to understand how he could stand there rambling about how he and other gun owners should not lose their right to own an AR-15, while that exact  weapon had executed the murder of countless people, including hundreds of young students in school shootings. I wondered: Did he find his right to own an AR-15 more important than the rights of innocent individuals to live and have a future?

The day of the march, March 24, arrived. Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend the actual march since I had an important assessment that same day and span of time, that I couldn’t change or cancel; however, knowing that the money I fundraised and the coverage of the march that I spread encouraged other people to attend the march was enough.

Participating in the March For Our Lives move has inspired me to continue research about the gun violence epidemic in America, not only in schools but also everywhere else, especially in lower income, minority-based communities, where gun violence has become the norm and the protest of individuals living in those communities have not been recognized as much as the voices of MFOL.

The March For Our Lives movement is a necessary step in the process of decreasing gun violence, but the fight doesn’t end here. Change is a process and takes time. Now is the time to further your research on America’s gun violence epidemic, to continue informing your community in real life and social media, to contact your elected representatives, to donate or volunteer with gun-control organizations, and to pressure politicians to conclude their relationship with the NRA. Additionally, if you are able to vote, then vote out politicians that support the NRA or, if you are still under 18, register to vote for when you are of age.

I’m glad I decided to leave my house — my comfort zone —  that one afternoon and attend the first meeting of the March For Our Lives San Jose movement. Although my dent in the movement might have been small, I know I was part of something bigger. Anyone can participate in pursuing change for the better; it’s just up to that person to show up and try.

 

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