SU College Democrats march for new gun laws

SU College Democrats march for new gun laws

At their first major protest, student political activists advocate for change.
Published: March 24, 2018 | Updated: April 23rd, 2018 at 10:57 am
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(from left) Erik Farrar, Alex Keegan, Ben Schiller, Lana Al-Khatib, Andres Victoria hold up their signs in front of the buses.

WASHINGTON — Members of Syracuse University’s College Democrats regularly host speakers, register students to vote and volunteer for local campaigns. On Saturday, they joined their first major protest, a pivotal moment for young political activists. Going with the friends and allies they’ve formed in the organization made the experience all the more meaningful. The March For Our Lives is a student-run movement born after 17 students, teachers, and faculty members were murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The high school students’ grassroots movement echoes what the College Democrats say they hope to do: empower and educate young people through politics.

“The whole point of our organization is to get people engaged locally, and nationally,” said Andres Victoria, vice president of College Democrats. Victoria is from Florida; his father lives 15 minutes away from Parkland. He marched for his friends and family in Florida, who witnessed shootings in both Parkland and Orlando. “Thankfully, I don’t know anyone who went [to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School],” Victoria said. “But I do have friends from high school that had family and friends attending there, so I know that they’re going through a tough time right now.”

 

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Syracuse University College Democrats Vice President Andres Victoria, left, and member Alex Keegan ride the metro on their way to the March for Our Lives rally in front of the Capitol Building.

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Members of the Syracuse University College Democrats use the metro to make their way to the March for Our Lives rally in front of the Capitol Building.

College Democrats members Ben Schiller and Alex Keegan marched for their younger siblings and their mothers. Keegan’s brother is in middle school, and his mother is a school nurse. Schiller has a brother in high school, and his mother works at an elementary school. “No place is safe right now,” Schiller said. “We need to get something done before they’re victims, or even I’m a victim at SU.”

All five College Democrats who came to Washington said they hoped this march would bring awareness to the lives lost to gun violence and spark legislative change. “The least that could come out of this is mandatory background checks,” member Erik Farrar said. Schiller and Keegan agreed, and said the march could also inspire legislation to ban the sale of assault rifles to civilians. “Personally, I don’t believe any citizen should have a military style weapon, like an AR-15,” Keegan said. The AR-15 is a gun modeled after the M-16, a military-grade assault rifle. “You don’t need that in your garage or in your house,” Schiller said.

Several of the group’s members also attended the march in Syracuse. There, they registered voters for the upcoming midterm elections. Once the organization reunites in Syracuse, they plan to host a panel on gun legislation with nonprofit Democracy Matters. They have also invited congressional candidate Dana Balter to speak on campus.

“I just hope that everyone on this campus knows that no voice is too small to be heard,” Victoria said. “I hope people will realize that this is a movement, it’s not dying anytime soon. We are the beginning, and hopefully, ultimately, some laws will be passed.”

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is a contributor to The NewsHouse at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.