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Feb 13 2017
by Nancy Canevari

The College Student's Guide to Activism: Gun Control

By Nancy Canevari - Feb 13 2017

In light of the recent inauguration of Donald Trump, a variety of political and social issues have become topics of everyday conversation as concerned Americans wonder what the future holds. One of those topics is the subject of gun laws -- more prevalent than ever in an era of frequent mass shootings. While many feel impassioned about gun control laws, it can be difficult for them to know where to start in terms of advocating for their beliefs. As many Americans begin their activism journey, here is a guide of how to get started advocating for gun control.

The Current Facts

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The United States has the most guns per capita of any country in the world, partially because guns are so easy to purchase: 31 states do not require background checks before purchasing guns, 22 states have no restrictions on open carry policies, 24 have no restrictions on concealed carry policies and 27 states do not place restrictions on gun purchasing for people with a history of violent crime. More Americans have died from shootings than from terrorism since 2001; a fact supported by the sheer number of mass shootings that have occurred in the U.S. There were 372 mass shootings in the year 2015 alone, 64 of which were school shootings. A total of 475 people died in mass shootings in that same year.

Why does this matter for college students?

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There were 23 shootings on college campuses in 2015 alone. Going forward, college students are not only vulnerable to shootings, they are also the demographic of people most likely to mobilize for increased gun control. A 2011 study shows 18-29 year olds are more in favor of gun control than any other age demographic, and the same study reveals that college graduates are more in favor of gun control than any other education demographic. With a population more in favor of gun control than any other, college students have the ability to bring about real change. We’re also emerging as adults and have begun to have an actual say in our world, which allows us more power to advocate for change. Unfortunately, we will also be the generation that inherits all of the problems that a lack of gun control has brought. We have an obligation to stand up for stricter gun control laws.

What Can I Do?

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One of the best ways to help advocate for gun laws is to join organizations, both on a college and national level, that are committed to increased gun control measures. Here are a variety of organizations that you can join if you want to become involved.

Chapter Organizations

Rush Students Against Gun Violence

Rush University

Rush Students Against Gun Violence aims to educate Rush students and the greater Chicago area about gun violence and to work with local legislators to enact stricter gun control laws. They also aim to work with gun violence victims at local hospitals to improve their quality of life.

University of Delaware’s Students Against Gun Violence

University of Delaware

This organization tries to educate the university community about the dangers of gun violence and advocates for gun safety legislation.

UPenn Penn Against Gun Violence

University of Pennsylvania 

Penn Against Gun Violence was formed in the wake of a shooter threat in Philadelphia, when a freshman felt forced to choose between her education and her safety. The organization aims to educate Pennsylvania citizens about gun safety and advocate for gun safety laws and wants to organize workshops and guest speakers to help in their efforts. They have partnered with the Brady Campaign as part of a larger college campus movement to educate students on gun safety.

National Organizations

Everytown for Gun Safety

Everytown for Gun Safety

Everytown is an organization comprised of politicians and private citizens and is supported most vocally by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Mayors Against Illegal Guns. In addition to advocating for harsher gun control measures, the organization also supports increased background checks, an end to domestic violence and preventable deaths and an end to gun trafficking. Their site also seeks to educate visitors on the various issues associated with gun control and gun violence, from suicide to the gun lobby.

Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

The Coalition is an order comprised of forty-seven independent, national organizations, from religious organizations to child welfare groups, that work together to combat gun violence. They target legislators specifically and seek to establish personal relationships with politicians, while also holding them accountable if they support the NRA, and advocate against legislation and politicians who support relaxed gun control measures. They advocate for increased background checks, reform on mental health checks, bans on assault weapons and increased restrictions on carrying guns in public, and also seek to eliminate the rigid reading of the Constitution that allows so many pro-gun advocates to deem gun ownership as a pillar of democracy.

Violence Policy Center

Violence Policy Center

The VPC aims to educate the general public on the dangers of gun violence through educational programs and the publication of research. Their targeted issues are wide, from investigating the gun lobby and regulating the gun industry to advocating against assault weapons and concealed carry policies. They partner with several other organizations to maximize their impact and focus on how gun violence can affect different groups of people in different ways, including the impact of gun violence on women, youths and black and Latinx communities.

The Brady Campaign

The Brady Campaign 

The Brady Campaign was started as the Million Mom March, where 750,000 mothers marched on Washington in 2000 to demand harsher gun laws. Following the march, the women disbanded into smaller chapters and joined with other gun control organizations across the country to form the Brady Campaign. The goal of the Campaign is to cut gun violence in half by 2025 by enacting stricter background checks, removing guns from the hands of potentially dangerous individuals and leading a national discussion about the nature of guns and the social norms surrounding them in the United States.

Activism can often be an uphill battle, especially with current conditions as frightening as they are in regards to gun violence. Advocating your beliefs is a constantly ongoing process and there’s no right or wrong way to act, but everyone has to start somewhere. Remember: no one has to do everything, but everyone has to do something.

Read the rest of Fresh U's series on college activism below:

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Nancy Canevari - Smith College

Nancy is a junior editor for Fresh U. She is a sophomore at Smith College and plans on double majoring in secondary education and English, with a concentration in creative writing. She's originally from New Jersey, a place she views with one part love and one part exasperated disgust. She loves dogs and young adult high fantasy novels a bit too much and spends most of her time drinking tea and yelling about politics. Follow her on Instagram @fearlesslynancelot for some solidly mediocre content.

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