How Young People Can Get Involved in the Movement to End Gun Violence
I’ll always remember the day in May 2018 when I kept waiting for the bell to ring.
It was approaching the end of my junior year of high school, and I was ready to head to lunch as I sat in a basement classroom working on an art project with a friend. We laughed and talked about our lunch plans, staring impatiently at the clock, believing that it was just another boring day in high school.
However, before the bell could ring, an announcement blared through the intercom overhead—sending us into a stoic panic. “This school is now in lockdown. This is not a drill. Teachers, please lock all exits and cover all windows.”
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Students in the class remained silent as our two teachers walked through the basement in trained movements, locking the three points of entry into the classroom. I remember making the decision to not text my mom goodbye, in an effort to avoid scaring her if the feared scenario did not come to fruition. My friend turned to me in resignation and said, “I guess it’s finally happening to us.”
The thought of gun violence finally rearing its head at my high school was shocking, but not altogether surprising. Earlier that year, students at our school participated in a national walkout to protest gun violence, standing in solidarity with the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, who lost 17 students and faculty in a mass shooting a few months earlier.
The previous year, we lost two of our classmates to gun violence. One was killed by a friend in a tragic case of a mishandled firearm. The other was brutally murdered by his father, who was able to obtain a gun despite having restraining orders filed against him due to domestic violence.
We knew school shootings could happen anywhere. It doesn’t make it any less shocking when it happens to you.
Our school stayed on lockdown through lunch before we were allowed to go about our day. We only found out hours later that the lockdown had been prompted by a shooting that took place next to the school, and that those fleeing gunshots had entered the building for safety.
School shootings on the rise across America
School shootings have become an all-too-common facet of growing up in America. In 2018, a student’s risk of dying in a school shooting reached its highest level in at least 25 years.
Kristin M. Holland, et al., “Characteristics of School-Associated Youth Homicides — United States, 1994–2018,” CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 68, no. 3 (2019): 53–60.
The fear I felt that day has stuck with me over the last few years. And while I was able to return home to my family alive and in one piece, that is not the reality for many Americans.
In recent years, gun violence rates have surged to record levels, putting the issue at the forefront of the minds of millions of Americans. From mass shootings at schools and workplaces to deadly acts of violence in the home, gun violence touches the lives of too many Americans—leaving families heartbroken and communities devastated.
If you’re anything like I was in high school, you may be passionate about promoting commonsense gun laws and safe gun ownership but have no idea where to start. As an undergrad who’s been interested in and has engaged with gun violence prevention advocacy—in addition to other types of policy advocacy—over the past few years, I’ve had a lot of practice in getting involved with causes I believe in, and I’m here to help.
Below, I walk through some of the ways students and young people generally can get involved in the gun violence prevention movement—and I hope it encourages you to join the fight for gun safety.
The gun safety movement is on the march: Americans from different background are united in standing up for safer schools and communities. Join us to make your voice heard and power our next wave of victories.GET INVOLVED
How Young People Can Join the Fight to Save Lives
Learn about the issue
The most important step you can take to join the movement to end gun violence is to learn about the issue and how it impacts people across the United States. From domestic and community violence to mass and police shootings, there are a variety of gun violence types, each with its own contributing factors. This means there’s no one-size-fits-all solution—the approaches to end gun violence don’t always look the same, and they require laws and community efforts unique to their circumstances.
Our website is a great first stop to learn about how gun violence impacts Americans and what we can do to stop it. We have numerous resources to aid in your learning journey that will teach you about gun laws, violence intervention efforts, and the current state of gun violence in this country. Taking the time to learn this information will give you a solid foundation you can build your gun violence prevention activism on.
Take action on campus
One of the best ways to effect change in your local community is to start right on campus. As a young person passionate about ending gun violence, you’re not alone. According to a Harvard Youth poll, 63% of young people ages 18–29 have expressed support for stronger gun safety laws—making your campus a great place to start working for change.
Founding a group where you and your fellow students can educate your peers about gun violence and promote strategies to end it will ensure that the young people in your community stay engaged with the issue and are aware of their power to make positive change. Soon, our generation will be making policy decisions that impact the lives of all Americans—so starting our advocacy while we’re young is crucial to positively impacting our future.
Attend protests, rallies, and marches
Protests, rallies, and marches are great avenues to take direct, non-violent action in promoting commonsense gun laws. Every year, gun violence prevention activists take to the streets to fight for lifesaving gun laws efforts, keeping the media’s—and therefore the nation’s—attention on the issue. Look for rallies in your local community and attend with classmates, friends, and family. You can also promote upcoming events and rallies on social media and encourage those you know to join you in fighting for a safer, brighter future for this country.
Lobby your elected representatives
Another effective way to combat the gun violence epidemic is to contact and lobby your local representatives. Recently, I traveled to the Texas State Capitol along with dozens of fellow students to lobby for increased support for public universities. Every legislative staff member I spoke with told me many don’t realize how big of an impact coming in person to advocate for their beliefs has.
To promote gun violence prevention, you can call, email, or visit their offices in person and explain why ending gun violence is important to you and urge them to take action to end it. Look up when your state’s legislature is in session and encourage your elected leaders to support commonsense gun laws that will save countless lives. If you’d like more information on what your state can do to strengthen its gun laws, visit our Annual Gun Law Scorecard for policies that will improve its residents’ safety.
Join local organizations
Joining a local organization that works to promote gun reform, safe gun ownership, and violence prevention will allow you to take meaningful actions in combating gun violence. Consider becoming a part of the GIFFORDS Action Network to join like-minded individuals in contacting lawmakers, showing up for peaceful demonstrations, and advancing lifesaving gun laws.
If we want to make sure gun safety laws are prioritized, passed, and implemented in states across the country—and at a federal level—we must elect leaders who have the courage to act. Be sure to research the local, state, and national candidates running for office—and register to vote!
One major lesson I learned after my experiences in high school prompted me to pursue a career in advocacy is that students have a critical role in the movement to end gun violence. By learning about the issue, promoting information about ways the public can get involved, and more, students can make a difference in their communities and help build a safer, brighter future for all.
Students, veterans, survivors: Americans from all walks of life across the country are standing up for commonsense gun reform. If you’re fed up with politicians who care more about protecting gun lobby profits than your safety, stand with us in this fight.Join Us