In an effort to raise awareness on the issues surrounding gun violence, a walkout was organized by RWU students as part of National Walkout Day. April 20 marked the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings, and students across the country walked out of classrooms to protest gun violence.
The students met at 10 a.m. at the statue of Roger Williams located in the center of campus before moving to the Unity Path, where a microphone was set up. Following a slam poetry performance by sophomore Josue Vides-Erazo, those gathered observed a moment of silence to honor the victims of gun violence.
Freshman Carmen Mei, one of the organizers of the walkout, said that she can remember the active shooter drills her middle school used to conduct following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 26 dead at the hands of a single gunman.
“The harsh reality [is that] gun violence can happen at any time, any place, and, more importantly, to anyone,” Mei said.
Another organizer of the walkout, freshman Alexus Moniz, shared her connection to the issues of gun violence, noting that “seeing constant shootings every day on the news” has impacted her greatly.
“Here at Roger Williams, for instance, our campus is an entirely open space, accessible to anyone. Who’s to say that a tragedy could never happen here?” Moniz said, adding, “According to the gun violence archive, there have been 65 mass shootings in the U.S. in the year 2018 alone, and that number will continue to grow as Congress continues to start Twitter wars rather than establishing laws to protect their citizens.”
Mei brought up the relevance of her future as an educator, stating that her main concern should be giving her students an education rather than ensuring that they make it home alive at the end of the day.
“We must protect our children and our communities. If this means more background checks and regulations, banning bump stocks and high-capacity magazines, those with the right intentions should be supportive of such regulations,” Mei said.
There were other future educators present at the event, and among them was sophomore Grace Luppino, an elementary education major.
“As teachers, we are the people that are there with the students, we are affected just as much as they are. Every time an educator walks into a classroom, they have to think of escape routes, how to barricade a door, and how best protect our students in case of a school shooting,” Luppino said. “It’s something that I wish I didn’t have to think or worry about, but that has become our reality.”
Moniz informed those in attendance that there is currently a Rhode Island Assault Weapons Ban that has been introduced to the Rhode Island House and Senate, and encouraged people to “use [their] voices and, more importantly, [their] power in the voting booths.”
Luppino said that this issue isn’t about political parties or stripping people’s Second Amendment right to bear arms.
“This is about regulation,” she stated. “I am not against guns, and I think it’s ignorant to believe that this movement is about banning all guns.”
Following the walkout, the School of Education invited interested individuals to a breakout session where they discussed ways in which they could become more involved in the movement and specific next steps for RWU. They created a Facebook group called “Students and Teachers Against Gun Violence RWU” and encourage people to join the group to receive updates on ways to get involved.
Mei challenged those in attendance to continue the conversation in classrooms, with friends and family, and whenever they have the platform to do so.
“It’s important for us to continue this conversation, keep having this conversation, don’t let it stop,” urged sophomore Kat Vicente. “If it stops, bring it up again, because once it stops, it goes away, but the shootings won’t.”