Brandeis Never Again holds rally for gun violence prevention

April 27, 2018

Members of the Brandeis community rallied at the Light of Reason last Friday to express support for gun control reform. Students from Brandeis Never Again organized the rally as part of a national school walkout day marking the 19th anniversary of the shooting at Columbine High School.

Fourteen speakers addressed the crowd on topics ranging from personal experiences with gun violence to the youth-driven nature of the present gun control movement.

Between speeches, Renee Korgood ’20, a coordinator for the event, encouraged attendees to take action, register to vote and make their voices heard at the ballot box. “We need to make voting something people look forward to,” said Korgood at the rally. “And that starts with getting more people to understand how important it is.”

There was a table set up at the rally for participants to register to vote. Brandeis and national #NeverAgain organizers have emphasized the importance of voting and political engagement as the next step in pushing for gun control reform.

Speakers at Brandeis included students, Waltham City Councilor Kristine Mackin ’14 and members of the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence.

Mackin focused on how “nothing has changed” since the Columbine High School shooting in 1999. “After Sandy Hook, my hope died,” said Mackin during her speech, referring to the 2012 shooting that killed 26 people, most of them first graders. “If we couldn’t change after twenty of the youngest school children were murdered, there’s no hope.” Following the shooting at Stoneman Douglas, Mackin could not get herself to read the headline, wondering why she should subject herself to even more grief. “To my shame, I didn’t want to look. I didn’t want to bear witness to another unspeakable tragedy.”

The protests led by students from Stoneman Douglas and across the country demonstrated to Mackin the power of that generation. “You are alone because the adults of this country have failed you. We have looked away in the face of an ongoing horror, we blinked. We gave up. But you are rising up, showing us the way, and leading where we have failed,” said Mackin.

Mackin urged the students to keep going and ensured them they have the support of the older generation. “As you rise and as you lead you made it easy to relinquish this podium back to you. You make it impossible for me to walk away, you make it impossible to shut my eyes again … And you make it my responsibility to commit those of my generation and older to fight your cause until you say your work is done.”

Charlotte Lowell, a high school student from Andover, Massachusetts, was a student organizer of the Boston March for Our Lives. In her speech, Lowell relayed a letter she and a friend wrote to members of Congress. The speech drew parallels between school and gun control reform. “Recently, my time has been consumed by other things [besides school]: demanding that my representatives take progressive action on gun policy in America and organizing sit-ins at my high school to draw upon the astounding change that our government has failed to implement,” said Lowell in her speech.

Lowell went on to say that Congress is “flunking” because of their inability to address the epidemic of gun violence and encouraged the audience not to endorse politicians who receive money from the National Rifle Association (NRA).

Joshua Moll ’19, who is from Parkland, recounted his personal experience with the shooting. His younger brother was inside the school, he said. “I was sitting at my desk on the day of the shooting and I saw two text messages: ‘Jake’s school has shooter, he’s locked in a closet. SWAT and FBI,’” said Moll during his speech. “I immediately texted Jake to see if he was okay. It took him one hour to reply. For one whole hour of my life, I did not breathe.” The whole crowd was silent as Moll described the feeling of not knowing what had happened to his brother.

“I am lucky because one hour later my brother replied yes and eventually went home safely,” said Moll. “But for 17 other families, that hour ended in a very different manner. That hour ticked on eternally as those parents waited for their children to walk out of school. Those children never walked out of school.”

Victoria Richardson ‘20, one of the members of Poetic Justice who spoke at the rally, commented on her own experiences with gun violence. She recited two poems, one focusing on police brutality in America, and the other dedicated to friends she had lost to self-inflicted gun violence. “I am very aware of the ways police brutality and gun violence can become a tragedy.”

Michael Barrett, the state senator who represents this area was unable to attend for health reasons. In a Facebook post, Barrett said, “Reducing the staggering number of firearms and firearm-related deaths is the most pressing issue in the country right now. I’m grateful to see Brandeis leading the way in addressing the problem.”

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