Students Against School Shootings
I’m standing in front of Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, smiling sweetly, hand raised, when I see her mouth, “You’re next.” This is all part of my act: I use my four foot nine height to pose as an innocent child, then confront politicians with facts and knowledge. Once I was called on, I said, “Earlier you talked about how you are giving more funding to K-12 education, which I really appreciate.” She nods, anticipating my praise. “But there is one thing that is disrupting our learning environment, and that is the fear of being shot. What are you planning on doing about this?” Her smile disappears as the crowd starts cheering. When she responds, she walks around the topic, ignoring my question.
In my year and two months as a gun control activist, this type of conversation has been a common occurrence. In February of 2018, after the Parkland shooting, many students from my school wanted to stand up for gun safety but didn’t know how. So, a few friends and I started Students Against School Shootings (SASS). This group began because we found out the junior high students were planning a walkout the next day and we wanted to show our support. We wanted to help unify the people who were all thinking the same thing: “this is horrific and we need to do something to stop it.” We ended up organizing hundreds of people from two high schools and one junior high school to walk out and march to downtown Iowa City to protest the lack of gun regulations, and pay our respects to the victims of the Parkland shooting. Over a year later, we’ve organized five protests—one with over 1,000 participants—and three benefit concerts, and registered over 200 student voters for the past midterm election.
We’ve received a lot of negative feedback from community members, students at our school, and even state legislators. As we plan events and announce them in our classes, students say we are just trying to get attention, or trying to boost our resumes. During our visits to the state capitol to speak with representatives, many doubt our knowledge. Community members expect us to have an adult leader, thinking that we can’t organize all of this on our own. We work together as leaders, with no designated supervisor, to make change as students.
Until the shooting in New Zealand on March 15, gun control had been less present in the news. We’ve taken advantage of this rise in coverage, and the laws being passed, to point out the lack of action in the United States. Even when shootings are not covered in the news, we make it our goal to spread awareness of the continuous violence happening.
Since I live in Iowa City, which is located in the state with the first caucus, we have presidential candidates visiting every week. We always try to have at least one representative from our group go to these events to ask questions about gun policy. This issue is as important as ever these days, and it’s our job to remind the public that horrible violence is still happening, and won’t stop until we get legislation in place. Although it involves arguing with politicians and getting into debates at family dinners, we will continue to fight until our schools are safe.
This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.
How to cite this page
Chapnick-Sorokin, Phoebe. "Students Against School Shootings ." 15 May 2019. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on July 24, 2019) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/students-against-school-shootings>.