By Brooklyn Draisey
Students came together on Tuesday in an intimate setting to remember victims of gun violence.
UI Students for Human Rights held a vigil and discussion in Danforth Chapel in the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High shooting on Feb. 14. Seventeen students and faculty were killed and 14 people were wounded.
Stoneman Douglas students have spoken out against gun violence and the need for regulations on firearms, calling on Congress and President Donald Trump to start fixing the problem. Students for Human Rights President Rebecca Howard said the new conversations are good for those needing to act, but some people need some time to reflect and mourn.
“I think the vigils are a good place to seek community and to be able to express your thoughts and feelings on a topic that’s really sensitive for a lot of people,” she said. “We’re seeing a lot of activism when it comes to gun violence … we want to keep that passion going but also recognize the pain and the hurt that’s behind it.”
After a moment of silence to remember those who have fallen victim to gun violence, the students began to discuss their feelings on everything from gun violence to safety in schools to what the government can do to try to end the epidemic that Howard said only the U.S. seems to be dealing with.
“We can’t ignore that this is a problem unique to the USA,” she said.
Freshman Anna Clowser, a member of the Students for Human Rights, spoke about her mother and her job as a middle- and high-school teacher. Her mother told her the possibility of a school shooting at her school was very real, and she might not come back after trying to protect her students.
“My thinking that that could actually happen was something that really hadn’t occurred to me before, and it really upset me,” she said.
The students’ anger is directed at the government’s lack of action in response to the many school shootings in the past few years. They discussed different avenues the government could take, such as a massive buy-back of certain guns, more thorough background checks, and banning semiautomatic weapons, and they scoffed at the idea of arming teachers.
UI Student Government Health and Safety Liaison Hira Mustafa went to the vigil to speak with students about what Iowa City and the UI can do to help start conversations about gun violence and regulations and to encourage action on both political and community levels.
The UI teaches the run, hide, fight version of active shooter response, instead of telling students and teachers to block windows and hide in dark spaces, Mustafa said.
The students talked about different national walk-outs scheduled in March and April and how student organizations could work with UISG to create their own events. Mustafa said she wants to hear from everyone on how the university can make students feel safer and know their voices are being heard.
“I think there’s a lot of interest on the university level to show our support …” she said. “A lot of people don’t know about the shooting we had in Jessup Hall and Van Allen Hall [on Nov. 1, 1991], so it would be interesting to in organizing something to help.”