Emory community members assembled on Wednesday to call for legislative action to prevent further gun violence and to remember the 17 victims of the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting.
The demonstration was part of a national movement of student walkouts across high school and university campuses in response to the Feb. 14 Parkland shooting in which 17 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and staff members were killed by a former student. About 150 Emory students, staff and faculty members attended Emory’s walkout in front of the School of Medicine. The event was scheduled from 10 to 10:17 a.m., one minute for each life lost in the Parkland shooting.
Women’s March Youth Empower initiated the walkouts “to protest Congress’ inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods,” according to its website.
One of the Emory walkout organizers, Alyssa Greenhouse (21M), spoke about why Emory University should care about the issue of gun violence and led a moment of silence as she read the names of the 17 people who were killed in the Parkland shooting. Emory School of Law Professor Frank J. Vandall followed by discussing methods to prevent mass shootings, and Marta Bean (19M) concluded the walkout by leading the crowd in chanting “Enough is enough.”
“We’re joining together to finally bring about the beginning of the end of this epidemic which is running rampant in this country,” Greenhouse said. “We’re here because gun violence is a public health issue — Emory leads the way in public health and high-quality health care, and we are the ones who really should be talking about this.”
Vandall said that the National Rifle Association (NRA) has not presented strong reasons for why people must own guns.
“You hear the NRA and our elected leaders say we need one good man with a gun,” Vandall said. “Well, [Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School] had three trained sheriffs, waiting for the shooting to stop … [therefore] one good man or woman with a gun [theory] is bulls**t.”
Vandall said that the United States can combat gun violence by electing legislators who will support gun safety, ban guns and repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which protects firearm manufacturers and dealers from being held liable when their weapons are used for crime.
“Support leaders who will embrace safe and meaningful solutions … the opposite of [Florida Sen.] Marco Rubio,” Vandall said. “Reverse the gun sellers immunity act [PLCAA]: You can’t sue the bastards, Congress has immunized them, [so] get rid of that immunization, so we can sue the gun manufacturers.”
Vandall noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s inability to conduct research on gun violence is a problem that needs to be addressed.
“CDC is banned by Congress from doing gun research,” Vandall said. “We need to know who gets shot, what guns are used, where they live … this is an epidemic. Much more money is spent on much less serious diseases than gun violence, but your elected people have forbidden our wonderful agency CDC from doing gun research.”
Several of Emory’s divisional schools, including the College and Goizueta Business School, are currently on spring break. Emory’s event organizers provided a live stream of the walkout for those who were unable to attend and encouraged people to post on social media in support of stricter gun control laws.
In a tweet Wednesday morning, the NRA condemned gun violence in schools.
“Let’s work together to secure our schools and stop school violence,” the tweet reads. “We protect our banks, our sports stadiums and our government buildings better than we protect our schools. That must change.”
Jennifer Kirk-Sorrow (20M) expressed admiration for the high school student activists who are leading the national movement for stricter gun control laws.
“I’m really proud of all the Parkland students who have been speaking out,” Sorrow said. “I want them to be the change because I think that it’s great that young people are the ones speaking out.”
Molly McCallum (21M) spoke to the Wheel about her frustration with the lack of action regarding gun violence.
“I think that it’s ridiculous that no one’s doing anything against gun violence,” McCallum said. “As someone who cares a lot about public health and what’s best for society as a whole, the fact that the CDC can’t do research is ridiculous.”