Students Demand Action, a student-led organization seeking to end gun violence, emphasized unity, non-partisanship and solidarity at its inaugural meeting on March 21.
Students Sarah Shortall, Chloe Rastatter and Hannah Wineman founded the group just 10 days ago, after being prompted to action by the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. On Feb. 14, 17 people were killed when a former student opened fire at the school.
CU Boulder’s Students Demand Action chapter is one of many across the country. The organization is a branch of the non-profit Everytown for Gun Safety and was created in response to the Stoneman Douglas shooting. Everytown also includes branch organizations such as Moms Demand Action and Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
“As students in Colorado, this issue is particular to us,” Wineman said. “How could I not get involved?”
Wineman said that the rush to simply establish the organization had been the group’s main priority for the past ten days. The group was granted their formal student organization recognition from CU just 12 hours before the meeting was held. Typically this process takes a year.
Senior Andy Ferree, who considers himself a firearms enthusiast, attended the meeting to learn more about Students Demand Action’s stances on policy. Ferree previously served in the Army and as a private contractor abroad. He does, however, think that there’s room for policy improvement.
“There is a middle ground,” Ferree said. “But, the discourse we see isn’t productive.”
Everyone on the panel reiterated that progress was impossible without a wide spectrum of perspectives.
“There needs to be a diverse conversation to actually make a difference,” Rastatter said.
Alumni of Stoneman Douglas formed a group recently in addition to Students Demand Action. They’re collectively pushing for new legislation that will minimize or eradicate gun violence through expansion of the Baker Act. It’s a Florida state law that allows for the involuntary institutionalization of a person for up to 72 hours on the grounds of mental health concerns.
The alumni group also wants local law enforcement agents to follow up with individuals after they fail a background check to obtain a gun. The group also named universal background checks and raising the legal gun ownership age to 21 years old as goals.
Dustin Zweibel graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2006 and became a paramedic after graduating from CU in 2010. The shooting at his alma mater inspired him to become active in supporting new gun control legislation. He represented the alumni group at Students Demand Action’s meeting Wednesday.
“Colorado has been affected uniquely by gun violence,” Zweibel said. “To see it affect your community, you can’t put words to that.”
In addition to working with alumni, Zweibel is starting a petition proposing CU host a town hall meeting where local representatives would talk about their views on gun violence. He implored students to sign and circulate the petition.
Wineman said she was both surprised and satisfied with the large turnout. The next steps for the group include formally announcing a policy agenda as well as recruiting more members. Students Demand Action will also take part in the international March for Our Lives by joining crowds on March 24 in Denver. The main march was organized by survivors of the Stoneman Douglas shooting, and will take place in Washington, D.C.
After the March for Our Lives this weekend in Denver, Wineman said the group is going to use their spring break to recuperate and start planning for future events.
Contact CU Independent Head Opinion Editor Kim Habicht at firstname.lastname@example.org.