Since last year's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., thousands of teenagers and young adults across the country have organized protests, run for political office, and created the national advocacy group March for Our Lives to demand stricter gun legislation.
The March for Our Lives national protest in March 2018 drew more than a million people to the streets, including thousands in Philadelphia, to call for greater gun control action across the United States. Now, Penn is getting its own chapter of March for Our Lives this semester, and its leaders say they hope to further gun reform at the local level.
College sophomore Rachel Steinig, president of Penn's March for Our Lives chapter, said the group’s founders saw a “void” on campus when it came to talking about gun control, leading to the creation of a group exclusively focused on the issue.
“There are a lot of different clubs that do things that are somewhat related, for example, Dems, but that isn’t their main purpose,” Steinig said.
Penn March for Our Lives Communications Director Beatrice Forman, a College freshman and a 34th Street staff writer, said the group “hopes to be the campus' one stop shop for all things gun reform and control legislation in the West Philadelphia area.”
Several of the board members were also involved in the March for Our Lives movement in high school or had previously helped organize walkouts at Penn, Steinig said.
The group has seen substantial interest since they released an interest form in late December 2018, Vice President and College freshman Jay Falk said. Falk said more than 130 people expressed interest in joining the club and nearly 250 people have liked the group’s Facebook page.
Falk said the group hopes to place a strong focus on activism by hosting events such as protests, marches, speaker events, and roundtables with people from a wide variety of perspectives on gun control. The group will also prioritize lobbying legislators and policymakers who have the power to reform the country's gun legislation.
The students emphasize that the organization is larger than just the initial protest. “There’s a reason we call it a movement and not a moment," Falk said. "It’s not one march.”
The chapter's secretary, College freshman Cassandra Ingersoll, said although gun violence tends to be seen as a national problem, March for Our Lives also aims to localize the issue.
“It’s also important to learn about local things, especially in a city like Philadelphia where gun violence happens all the time,” Ingersoll said.
In Philadelphia, gun violence took the lives of almost 1400 people last year, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Mayor Jim Kenney recently unveiled a comprehensive initiative that includes changes in police tactics and support for public health programs in an attempt to address gun violence in the city.