In the 102 days since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, over 3,000 people in the United State have been killed by guns — and Penn Democrats have had enough.
The group is planning a week-long series of events to raise awareness about the impact of gun violence and advocate for reform.
Beginning last week, Penn Dems have displayed a banner on Locust Walk, updated daily, with a tally of the number of gun deaths since Dec. 14 and the number of days since the tragedy.
The Gun Control Action Week, which will take place the week of April 15, aims to reignite the conversation on campus.
“We felt like obviously there was a lot of talk [about] what could be done on this issue following Sandy Hook,” College sophomore and Penn Dems president Matt Kalmans said. “But we sort of predicted the public pressure on lawmakers would wane.”
The main event will be a forum on gun control with 1979 Wharton graduate and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Assistant District Attorney Ed McCann.
Nutter, who is the president of the United States Conference of Mayors, has been an outspoken advocate for more stringent gun control measures.
The Penn Dems board has also been in contact with Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey’s office regarding the commissioner attending the forum.
Penn Dems is advocating specifically for an assault weapons ban, a ban on high-capacity magazines and the creation of universal background checks.
College sophomore and Penn Dems Vice President Dan Levinson added that he expected a positive reaction.
“I think public opinion at Penn would be overwhelmingly in favor of these reforms,” he said, citing statistics that the majority of Americans support universal background checks.
In addition to the forum with Nutter and McCann, the group also plans to hold phone banks to lobby legislators — including Democratic Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey Jr. and Rep. Chaka Fattah, who represents Philadelphia — and hand out green ribbons in memory of the victims of Newtown.
“We think it’s an incredibly important issue,” College freshman and Penn Dems Legislative Director Sean Foley said. “Too many people have died in recent years.”
“But Congress really hasn’t responded at all,” he added.
Kalmans said that he has seen support from people outside of Penn Dems.
“Right after Sandy Hook happened, I started getting a flood of emails from people who’d never been involved with Dems before saying, ‘This is something that hit really close to home and as soon as you start doing something, we’ll get involved,’” he said.
The group hopes grassroots efforts will effect legislative change.
“I wanted to [take] a picture of the amount of people each day being killed,” College freshman and Penn Dems Communications Director Jane Meyer said, but there were too many deaths per day to coordinate it.
“Now it’s even closer to students’ hearts than ever before so that’s why this is the time for action,” she added.
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