There is a mass shooting nine out of every 10 days in the United States.
We see the breaking news icons flash across our screens. Our hearts drop. We get mad, we read some op-eds, and then, we go back to our lives. Then it happens again. We repeat the process. We’ve almost become numb to the anger, to the fear, to the panic.
On Feb. 14, 17 students, teachers, and staff members were killed at a high school in Parkland, Fla. It was a story we’ve heard before: A gunman enters a public place with a semi-automatic weapon; people are killed. 20 first-graders in Sandy Hook. 8 parishioners at a black church in Charleston. 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando. 58 concertgoers in Las Vegas.
The victims of gun violence extend beyond this initial number. We must remember that these acts of gun violence ripple out, touching and traumatizing survivors, witnesses, and loved ones. The 22,000 other people at the concert in Vegas. The other 3,000 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Injured or not, each of these survivors feels the sharp pains of loss.
Despite this widespread trauma and the demands that follow, our nation has yet to make real progress in enacting common-sense gun reform.
Earlier this week, we, the organizers of the Penn Students Stand Against Gun Violence action, decided that we must take a stand. We were inspired by the Parkland students who are using their community’s grief to amplify their voices and demand answers. We want to support those who have been directly affected by gun violence and join them in pushing for reform.
We struggled with the question of how to best inspire change and generate the greatest impact on our own campus. We understand the limitations of symbolic efforts to effect real change, but we also want to do something now. We want to act before people revert to the cycle of anger, op-eds, silence, and begin again.
Real, tangible progress takes time. Time takes patience, something we’re short on right now. Ultimately, we recognize the importance of responding not only to Parkland but to the history of violence and reluctance to change that allow massacres like this to occur. We must remember that Parkland is only the most recent event in a long narrative of trauma and violence. We must also acknowledge that marginalized communities are disproportionately impacted by gun violence of all forms, including mass shootings, domestic abuse, and police brutality.
To join our demonstration, please meet us by the LOVE statue (36th and Locust streets) at 12 p.m. this Thursday, Feb. 22. We will make our presence known on campus by lining Locust Walk, standing side-by-side, each holding a handwritten sign with the locations, dates, and number of victims of each of the 371 mass shootings since January 2017. We will then hold a moment of silence for 497 seconds to honor those who have been killed in mass shootings during this period.
We hope that our demonstration will inspire a greater conversation on campus about gun reform. We recognize that visibility and conversation alone won’t change the status quo. If you are looking for some other ways to get involved in the fight for new, safer gun legislation, we have some suggestions.
Come find us at the event to register to vote. Our gun legislation won’t change unless we elect new leaders who support common sense gun reform. We need representatives who enforce universal background checks, close gun show loopholes, and require gun ownership licenses.
Call your Senators, Pat Toomey (215-241-1090) and Bob Casey (215-405-9660) — demand answers and action.
Rally with us at the March For Our Lives next month. This event, organized by the Parkland survivors and students, will be a nationwide effort to make our voices heard. Support their work by contributing your voice to the movement in Philadelphia.
Support local organizations that are doing work to support common sense gun reform: Everytown for Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action, or CeaseFire PA.
We ask you to join us in taking a stand against gun violence. Nothing will change unless we take action to disrupt the status quo. Together, we can amplify our voices. We can make sure our legislators understand that we demand change. We can show the world that we are not backing down on this critical issue of eliminating gun violence in our communities.
So we hope that you participate – we need you to participate – but we want your participation to be just the beginning. Change is possible, but only if we do not forget.
JANA KORN is a College senior from Washington, D.C. studying urban studies. SARAH HINSTORFF is a College senior from Palo Alto, Calif. studying international relations. ELISE REYNOLDS is a College junior from Ithaca, N.Y., studying urban studies.