On a snowy Wednesday morning, students gathered at the center of UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus to honor the 17 lives lost last month to gun violence at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Some students advocating for gun reform held signs reading #NEVERAGAIN, a slogan adopted by the school shooting survivors from Stoneman Douglas and activists everywhere.
For 17 minutes, the names of victims rang through the silence on campus.
Student organizers, Joshua Romero and Lily Skopp, are members of student group UNC 4 MSD with the goal of amplifying the voices of Parkland students and to advocate for gun reform.
Skopp graduated from MSD in 2017; Romero went to school 20 minutes from Stoneman Douglas and played baseball against them.
They arranged for a campus-wide walkout and moment of silence on Polk Place.
Sammie Espada, a senior, said the moments of silence were overwhelming
“It was really emotional and powerful to be able to remember those lives lost,” she said. “But also to show the power and the need for change.”
Walkouts and marches around the country have been organized after a former student shot 17 classmates and faculty at the Parkland high school on February 14.
Since then, a social media uproar has turned students into activists and survivors into leaders.
Alli Whitenack, a sophomore, attended the walkout and thinks there needs to be more gun control.
“I think at the very least, we need to ban assault weapons,” said Whitenack. “I also think it’s important that legislators address this and help set a tone and cultural norm that violence is unacceptable and intolerable.”
The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a policy organization dedicated to preventing gun violence through cultural and political change, features a study out of the University of California San Francisco that describes the relationship between gun access and homicide rates. The study indicates that households with a firearm are more likely to be victims of homicide and suicide.
“Regions and states with higher rates of gun ownership have significantly higher rates of homicide than states with lower rates of gun ownership.”
According to a new government spending bill unveiled Wednesday evening, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can now research gun deaths.This bill will open doors for the funding of gun violence studies producing updated statistics allowing for more effective policy.
UNC 4 MSD will host a March for Our Lives rally on March 29 featuring speeches from the families and survivors affected by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting.
This story was written on March 22, 2018 as an outside story assignment for MEJO 153: Writing and Reporting.