Vahni Kurra ’20 was once robbed at gunpoint on her way back from high school. Alexander Alderman, an instructional designer in the Center for Innovative Pedagogy, has a cousin that survived the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Fla. Lanise Beavers ’18 lost her cousin to gun violence, and once had to wait six hours to find out whether her sister was all right after her high school had a lockdown.
These were just some of the stories students and administrators shared at the walkout protesting gun violence on the steps of Rosse Hall on Friday, Apr. 20. The protest comes at a time when the issue of gun control is receiving increased national attention after the Parkland shooting in February, where an active shooter killed 17 students with an AR-15. Since that time, several high schools and colleges have protested U.S. gun laws. Last month, a number of Kenyon students attended March for Our Lives in D.C. and Columbus. Approximately 1.2 million Americans participated in the protest nationwide..
Jessie Gorovitz ’19, who organized the walkout, said President Sean Decatur is working with a legal team to challenge Ohio’s “Guns Everywhere” bill on the grounds that it violates Kenyon’s property rights. There is a provision in the bill that permits colleges to prevent guns from coming onto their campuses, but stipulates that they must allow them in their parking lots.
About 150 students gathered around the steps at 10 a.m. on Friday to observe a moment of silence for the 17 students killed in Florida. Gorovitz said that it was originally supposed to last for 20 minutes (honoring Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man who was shot 20 times by police officers in Sacramento in March), but ended up running an hour longer than she expected. A number of students, administrators and College employees told emotional stories about their experience with gun violence, and how it has affected them and their families.
Gorovitz said the issue of gun violence is particularly important to her. She said her father helped organize the Million Mom March in Washington, D.C. after the Columbine High School massacre in 2000. She also said that in middle school, she was suicidal, and that if she had a gun in the house, she probably wouldn’t have survived that time in her life.
“To me, gun violence is more than just homicides on the street,” Gorovitz said. “Nearly two-thirds of gun deaths a year are from suicides. That’s about 22,000 people. So for me that’s a really important part of the issue.”
Gorovitz also talked about how gun violence has an intersectional impact. She said gun violence affects all communities, especially communities of color; the penalty for being perceived as an armed black man by police officers is often death.
“The history of gun violence in America is super racist,” she said. “And I think that choosing to think about gun violence and gun culture as a great thing, one of the things that makes America fantastic, is a super privileged perspective.”
The issue of intersectional gun violence also came up at the walkout. Beavers spoke about how gun violence affects the black community. Charlotte Freccia ’19 spoke about how gun violence plays a role in domestic abuse, and how it affects all communities.
About 53 minutes after the event started, a few of the attendees started singing the first verse of Amazing Grace. Soon, the entire crowd joined in, their voices echoing across Ransom Lawn and South Quad.
After they were finished, Gorovitz reminded the white, cisgender and heterosexual people present in particular to keep other communities disproportionately affected by gun violence in mind.
In an interview with the Collegian, she emphasized this point.
“This is an issue that will not go away until we decide that everyone who is in power is complicit to this system of violence,” Gorovitz said. “And it’s up to us to determine whether we accept the status quo, and the first opportunity we have to really show our true feelings on the issue is the election in November.”