Loudoun high school students organized a gun violence awareness event on Saturday, June 25, the same day President Joe Biden signed into law new gun safety measures.
Gabriel Kelso, a member of Loudoun Valley High School’s Students Demand Action chapter, pointed to estimates that gun violence kills 110 people a day.
“When you hear numbers this large, it can be easy to get lost and think, ‘well, that’s a lot,’ and not really think about any further. But you have to remember, these aren’t just numbers. These are people,” Kelso said. “Every day, 110 people will die from gun violence. Every day, 100 people with emotions and with things they love, and with things they fear, with favorite foods and least favorite co-workers—every day 110 people with opinions, and pet peeves, and birthdays, and secrets, and childhood memories are killed. And this is why we say lives are lost, because these people that are killed have lives that are just as complicated as your life is every single day.”
And, he said, those killings affect more than just the immediate victim.
“For every person killed, a dozen more are plunged into a lifetime of grief,” he said.
Kirsten Ponticelli said the U.S. is the only first-world country with a gun violence epidemic.
“These issues are preventable, but only if we act now. We cannot continue to think and pray these issues away. We cannot continue to sit quietly while our children continue to face the consequences of our inaction,” she said. “The children of Sandy Hook, of Stoneman Douglas, of Uvalde—none of them asked to be the face of this movement. So if you have a voice, use it.”
Loudoun NAACP Third Vice President Christian Yohannes, a college student, said he grew up desensitized by the constant news of gun violence. He said that only changed in the past year.
“It’s easy to be discouraged, and even easier to accept situations for what they are. However, some things are worth not taking the easy way out for,” he said. “Over 200 mass shootings this year—that’s worth doing things the hard way for. An elementary school having to be bulldozed because they couldn’t ask the students to come back there after their watched their friends be slain in the middle of the halls—that’s worth doing things the hard way for.”
And he said the gun violence measures signed into law that morning were a first step in decades that meant gun safety advocacy was working.
County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) said she and her generation owe the younger generations an apology for their inaction.
“We owe you an apology because Columbine happened in 1999. Columbine happened in 1999. And in 1999, we started hearing the term ‘thoughts and prayers,’” she said. “Well listen, I’m a Christian. So please pray for me and please think about me. But thoughts and prayers without action just doesn’t mean anything. So we owe you an apology falling for the ‘thoughts and prayers’ statement, for all the excuses that came after, and not doing anything.”
Purcellville Mayor Kwasi Fraser also took part, introducing speakers, and Kelso read the names of 110 victims of gun violence. Catherine Northedge read the poem “Hymn for the Hurting” by Amanda Gorman.