The issue of gun violence in modern society is a frequently debated subject that has come up multiple times as school shootings and gun related violence are on the rise. Time after time, it has been adults discussing the issue in political environment. Now, students have had enough and are starting to take a stand, specifically in the March for Our Lives sister march that took place in downtown Houston on Saturday, March 24.
“It felt weird when I saw the news about the Parkland shooting, it was just like another school shooting because it’s become so desensitising how much this happens, and how nothing gets done every single time,” senior and student organizer Kellie Escovy said. “People keep saying ‘now is not the time to talk about it,’ and they’re right. The time to talk about it was years and years ago. Now, students are actually standing up and speaking out and making change happen, so that’s something that I really wanted to be involved in.”
The goal of the march was to promote discussion on the topic of gun violence and encourage politicians to enact stricter gun control policies.
“As days go by, more and more people are being informed about the issue,” junior Ben Heintz said. “And as more people are informed, more people are able to stand up and say ‘maybe we shouldn’t have assault rifles in the hands of regular people,’ and ‘maybe we shouldn’t have bump stocks’ and ‘maybe we should have stricter licensing and checks on that licensing.’ Maybe we should make it easier to buy a car than it is to buy a gun.”
Many students participated and had leadership roles in the event.
“I was in charge of putting together a group of students from our school who were going to the march,” Escovy said. “I was also one of the people on the Fundraising Committee, and the Personal and Professional Outreach Committee.”
In addition, Heintz and senior Gustavo Leal were asked to sing Found/Tonight, a song that was released by composers Lin Manuel Miranda and Ben Platt to raise money for the main March for Our Lives event in Washington D.C.
“I was contacted by Kellie Escovy, asking Gustavo and I to perform this song which Ben Platt and Lin Manuel Miranda were performing at the same march in D.C., on the same day,” Heintz said. “So Kellie reached out to Lin Manuel, and he sent us a link to get sheet music for it.”
A recording of the song was shared over social media, getting over 500 retweets and 4,000 likes – even garnering attention from Lin himself.
“I was going home from the march with my friend Krystin, and she was the one that mentioned that he retweeted us,” Leal said. “I stopped the car in the middle of the neighborhood, because I was so shocked. The feeling of being recognized by an iconic figure was just amazing and it made me happy that it all happened in one day.”
For many people, the march was a way for students to finally get involved politically and make their voices heard in a combined effort.
“I felt at home with people who shared the same value and the same initiative to stand up for what they believe in,” Heintz said. “Singing the song and just being at the rally felt like a tangible way for our voices to be heard.”
Overall, the march organizers sought to bridge the gap of adversary between opposing sides of the issue.
“A lot of the people coming at this gun control issue, whether it be from the left wing or the right wing, whether it be pro-gun or pro-gun control, a lot of people are coming at it from a completely radical perspective on both sides, either wanting to ban everything or not ban anything at all,” Heintz said. “I think with March for Our Lives, the movement is focused on coming to a compromise to say these things shouldn’t be happening.”
As the movement gained traction, it became closely linked to the Black Lives Matter movement, which is also focused on ending gun violence in communities.
“The Black Lives Matter movement have been fighting the battle of gun violence that people are just starting to acknowledge now – for years,” Heintz said. “They’ve been fighting it since the country was founded. They’ve been fighting it all through the 1800s, the 1900s, the early 2000s – even before the Columbine shooting. They’ve been fighting this battle every day, and not getting the recognition that they deserve, and although its a shame that it’s taken this long, it’s lovely to see how the marches are so closely related. Now that the issue of gun violence is in the foreground, since Black Lives Matter is a lot of the same issue – not only the discrimination to the African American community but the gun violence in their communities – that’s really what I think brought it forward.”
Although the march itself has ended, organizers have put together other ways students can reach out and get active in their community.
“We are producing a non-profit organization called ‘Students Rise’ to get students involved and get students educated about what’s going on in the nation around them,” Escovy said. “If you want more information about that, we will be starting a Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, so you can definitely get involved there.”
Ultimately, students are seeing the their efforts pay off, and are hopeful for the future.
“Right now, with everything that’s happening, people are registering to vote,” Heintz said. “And by saying what they’ll do with their vote, change is going to be happening – it already is happening, and lives are being saved.”