Two years after the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla., policymakers and student activists from across the nation gathered on Penn's campus to learn about a new plan that promises to cut gun deaths in Pennsylvania in half by 2030.
On the afternoon of Feb. 13, about 20 local students convened in Huntsman Hall to witness members of March for Our Lives PA and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro formally announce the Peace Plan for a Safer Pennsylvania, which has been in the works since November 2019. On March 25, the group will take their plan to Harrisburg, Pa. to ask state lawmakers for their support.
The plan is divided into three sections: ”ensuring safe gun ownership,” “addressing systemic causes,” and “fixing democracy.” Some of the proposed policies include universal background checks, lost and stolen gun reports, support for mental health programs, civic education initiatives, and funding research for gun violence as a public health epidemic.
College sophomore and Pennsylvania March for Our Lives Director Michael Nevett co-wrote the gun safety plan and spoke on its behalf.
“Urban violence and violence against people of color is something that is really prevalent in Philadelphia, but is often ignored on a national rhetoric scale," Nevett said. "So that was something that was really, really important to us.”
Shapiro commended the plan's attempt to ensure that sure gun violence prevention will be an issue that is “front and center on people’s minds” in the coming election, and its demand for new laws to be created and enacted.
Shapiro also thanked all of the student writers in attendance at the event for their work on the plan.
“One of the reasons why March for Our Lives inspires me so much is that when I look at one of the biggest, most challenging, pressing problems in our society today, I see Harrisburg and Washington failing to step up and do something about it, and instead, young leaders like all of you stepping up,” he told the audience.
Other speakers and attendees included State Director of Pennsylvania March For Our Lives Max Milkman and Founder and National Executive Director of Mothers in Charge, a community advocacy organization for families affected by violence, Dorothy Johnson-Speight.
Nevett says he became involved with the March for Our Lives organization days after the tragedy in Parkland. He said he is grateful to be part of a project that has potential to cause national change.
“We want to give an opportunity to the current leadership to step it up and support us, but we also wanted to make it very clear for voters so that when voters make their decisions in November, they have [the plan] as a basis,” Nevett said.
Although Nevett was the only Penn student to take part in the project, several of the other 10 student writers attend local high schools and universities as well.
Like Nevett, North Penn High School junior Vrajesh Dalwadi thinks gun reform needs to be a priority for candidates running in the upcoming November election.
“Nationally, the gun epidemic is real, but when it comes to a smaller scale, a lot of people don’t realize," Dalwadi said. “You don’t wake up thinking, today could be a day where my school gets shot up. But that’s definitely a possibility in our day and age."