Students organize gun control rally for Las Vegas shooting anniversary

Media Credit: Donna Armstrong | Contributing Photo Editor

Freshman Eve Levenson and junior Ethan Somers are organizers for a rally for gun reform in Union Square later this month.

Updated: Sept. 10, 2018 at 11:25 a.m.

Six students will lead a rally for gun reform later this month as the nation approaches the one-year anniversary of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

A rally and vigil to remember the 58 lives lost during the mass shooting in Las Vegas last October will be held Sept. 30 in Union Square, near the Capitol Building. Organizers said they expect 1,000 people to attend to demonstrate solidarity for victims of gun violence and show politicians their commitment to organizing for gun reform nationwide.

Eve Levenson, a freshman and the event’s lead organizer, said organizers decided to hold the nonpartisan march a day before the Las Vegas shooting anniversary to remind the public of the victims of gun violence.

“There’s really going to be an emphasis on remembering the victims, remembering their names and remembering their story,” she said. “If we allow ourselves to become detached from the real havoc that guns and gun violence do wreak, then that’s when we make our biggest mistake.”

The event is sponsored by the D.C. chapter of Shattering The Silence, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advocating for universal background checks and a bump stock ban. Levenson said she got involved with Shattering The Silence after noticing there was no D.C. rally to accompany the rallies in Las Vegas and New York City.

She said that organizers communicated with Las Vegas shooting survivors to decide an appropriate way to pay respect to the victims of the shooting, including providing a platform for survivors of the massacre.

“We’re making sure that it is a proper way to honor the victims as people who went through the tragedy,” she said.

Ethan Somers, a junior majoring in history and philosophy and the event’s media coordinator, said the march will remind the public of the severity of the Las Vegas mass shooting.

“The public becomes desensitized so quickly to hearing these numbers and within a week or so, they’ve almost forgotten the event even happened,” he said. “So a year later, to remind everyone that this is the biggest shooting that has happened in American history – it’s really important to draw attention to it.”

Somers said the march received its permit from Capitol police last week. He declined to provide specifics about the conversations between organizers and Metropolitan and Capitol police concerning logistics on the day of the rally.

Levenson said that by collaborating with local gun violence prevention organizations, organizers could invite a wide variety of voices and experiences, including minorities and people affected by gun violence, to be heard at the event.

“I think that it’s really important – something that I think about a lot myself, as an organizer who hasn’t personally been experienced by gun violence – knowing when it isn’t my place to talk and trying to provide this space for others to share their stories,” she said.

Levenson said the resources each partner organization committed to the rally depended on their size and scope, but that all partner organizations, including Youth Over Guns and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence Northern Virginia, agreed to promote the rally over social media and to attend the rally.

Levenson said speakers at the rally include Shaheera Albasit, a Pakistani graduate student studying public administration; Jaxon O’Mara, a gun violence activist and student at Great Mills High School in Maryland, where a teenage boy shot two people in March; and Robert Schentrup, an alumnus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who lost his sister in the Parkland shooting.

Havana Chapman-Edwards, an elementary school student from Alexandria, Va., who was the only student from her school to participate in the National School Walk Out in April, will also speak at the rally, Levenson said.

Albasit said she came to GW to get involved with politics, but after she lost her cousin Sabika during the Sante Fe High School shooting in Texas in May, she wanted to join the fight for gun control activism. The shooting claimed 10 lives, CNN reported.

She said she is speaking at the rally to make sure victims and their relatives have a prominent voice in the movement.

“When the March for Our Lives event happened in D.C., it was very close to where I live and I couldn’t go,” Albasit said. “Not knowing that in two months, this whole movement would hit so close to home that I would have no other option but to be absolutely exhaustively involved in it.”

This post was updated to reflect the following changes:
The Hatchet incorrectly listed Moms Demand Action as one of the rally’s partner organizations. The group has not signed on as a partner. We regret this error. This post was also updated to more accurately reflect Jaxon O’Mara’s title.

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