Dozens of students walked out of classes last Wednesday at 1 p.m. to express their concern with the epidemic of gun violence in the country.
A crowd of approximately 110 students, faculty, staff, and Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia gathered on the front lawn of the Mirenda Center where a grieving mother, a state legislator, several students, and Dr. Chris Domes addressed the impact of gun violence and possible solutions to the problem.
“Too many legislators are in the pocket of the gun lobby,” said Meredith Elizalde, whose son Nick was a victim of a lethal shooting at Roxborough High School last fall. Elizalde held her son in her arms as he died. “I tried to run and save him, but I didn’t run fast enough,” she sobbed.
State Representative Leanne Krueger (D-161) bemoaned “the lack of action in Harrisburg” but was hopeful that the Pennsylvania House will pass a background check bill now that Democrats hold a slim majority.
“Am I next?” Judith Colt, a junior Psychology major, asked the crowd. She reminded everyone of the long list of school shootings – from Sandy Hook and Parkland to Uvalde and Michigan State – that she has seen in her young life. “Demand action from your local members of Congress. Demand gun laws that require the registration of firearms and background checks. Please use your voice for those whose voices were taken too early,” she said.
Lelah Tehmeh, a junior Political Science major, read a letter to lawmakers calling for sensible gun reform and continued legislative change. “It is the people, not the gun industries, that gave you your position, your power, and your influence. So, I urge you to listen and to act or the people will give your seat to someone who can.”
Nursing Professor Elizabeth Loeper, a member of the board of GunSenseUs, spoke about the loss of her son Jamie to gun violence in West Philadelphia. “Get involved,” she urged. “Call your legislators.”
Dr. Domes noted that guns are the leading cause of death for young people in America. “We are at an inflection point, and it’s critical for us to say that enough is enough.”
After the remarks, students marched across Convent Road and through St. John Neumann Circle to the American flag in front of Bachmann Main Building, where they closed their march with a prayer.
As of April 4, barely three months into 2023, there have been 10,813 gun-violence deaths in America according to the Gun Violence Archive. The average number of daily deaths is 115, most of which (57.4 percent) are suicides. The fatalities include 372 teenagers (ages 12-17) and 64 children (ages 0-11).
The march was supported by the Sisters of St. Francis, Neumann’s founders, who took a corporate stand against gun violence in 2019: “The Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, conscious of the growing use of assault and other weapons in our society, take a corporate stand on behalf of gun safety reform thereby committing to educate ourselves and others toward a culture of life.”
The position statement also notes that gun violence is a leading cause of premature death in our country; advocates for extensive and up-to-date background checks on people purchasing guns; and supports voting to elect those who support gun safety reform.