Eleven days after 17 students and teachers were killed during a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Yale students and New Haven residents gathered on Cross Campus Sunday evening to honor victims of gun violence.
Ananya Kumar-Banerjee ’21 and Carrie Mannino ’20, a Weekend editor for the News, organized the vigil as a way both to mourn the dead and to rally the Yale community to get involved in advocacy efforts for tighter gun regulations. Five Yale students spoke of their own experiences related to gun violence at the hourlong vigil, which about 50 people attended. Speakers at the event emphasized the importance of collective action and organization, as well as voting for officials who are not beholden to the National Rifle Association.
Valentina Guerrero ’19, who grew up in Orlando, Florida, where 49 people were killed in a mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub in June 2016, stressed the urgency of translating the frustration Americans now feel into concrete change.
“Make no mistake that this is a moment of mourning. It is a moment of deep personal reflection,” Guerrero said. “But it is also an incredible opportunity for change.”
The vigil coincides with a reinvigorated national anti–gun violence movement that has swept up students, victims and corporate leaders. In the week since the Parkland shooting, survivors of the attack have challenged congressmen and spoken at rallies on national television, some of the country’s largest corporations have cut ties with the NRA, and high school students across the country have planned walkouts at their high schools to protest the lack of legislative action to address America’s gun violence problem. Yale announced last week that it would not penalize high school students that participate in such demonstrations in its admissions process.
Survivors of Parkland shooting have organized the March for Our Lives event for March 24, in which protesters will march to the White House to advocate legislation for stricter gun control and improved school safety.
Erica Turret LAW ’20, who grew up in Parkland, Florida, attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and spoke at the vigil, stressed the need to capitalize on this surge in national advocacy against gun violence.
“[Parkland is] the latest town to become a victim to America’s epidemic of gun violence. We need to commit ourselves to support these Douglas students in their effort and seize this moment in which the country seems to finally be paying attention to advocate for gun safety,” Turret said. “We as a country have failed [the students], and now we owe it to these students to be behind them every step of the way and make sure that change happens.”
Many students at the vigil argued that Yale students have a duty to advocate for change. Turret said that there is a way “for all of us here to get involved,” including supporting politicians who are not influenced by the NRA. Hedy Gutfreund ’18, who attended the event and is a close friend of one of the speakers there, said that the nationwide mobilization has been exciting to experience and that voting out politicians beholden to the NRA is an important step.
Jordana Gardenswartz ’18 attended the event and said she hopes that the Yale community mobilizes to advocate for change and to shake itself out of “this slumber where [mass shootings] feel so normal.”
Many students at the event told the News that they hope the vigil will launch a longer, sustained conversation on campus and nationally about gun violence and that Yale students become more deeply involved in the issue. Jaclyn Schess ’18 said that this moment can be “a turning point” and that Yale students need to be involved going forward in the conversation on gun control.
Brandon Marks ’18, who grew up across the street from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, was one of Sunday’s five speakers. He said that while it is “incredible” that the country is listening to the survivors of the shooting, such advocacy is nothing new.
“We need to remember the times people have spoken up and not been listened to and the amount of gun violence that happens in our country that goes unheard,” Marks said. “We need to admit that people are listening right now because Parkland is an affluent white community and that is why change is happening, and it’s great that it is but we need to recognize that people from lower income and communities of color have been advocating … these issues for years.”
The NRA and its affiliates spent $54 million during the 2016 congressional and presidential elections.
Chloé Glass | firstname.lastname@example.org
Correction, Feb. 26: This version of the article has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of the name, Erica Turret.