Iowa City’s youngest residents speak out for gun reform

A+student+activist+from+City+High+School+speaks+to+the+crowd+of+protestors+at+the+March+for+Our+Lives+event+on+the+Pentacrest+on+Saturday%2C+March+24%2C+2018.

Sid Peterson

A student activist from City High School speaks to the crowd of protestors at the March for Our Lives event on the Pentacrest on Saturday, March 24, 2018.

Students as young as 12 spoke out in support of new gun reform legislation at Saturday’s emotional March for Our Lives.

By Emma Sailor

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Several hundred people attended Iowa City’s March for Our Lives on Saturday, despite near-blizzard conditions that brought seven inches of snow to the area overnight.

Emotions ran high throughout the march, which began at College Green Park and culminated in a rally on the Pentacrest. Signs bearing messages such as “NRA THERE IS BLOOD ON YOUR HANDS” and chants like “rain, sleet, or snow, the NRA has got to go” made clear who many protesters blamed for the ongoing problem of gun violence.

“The NRA has been the main contributor to our deeply divided and polarized state,” Herbert Meisner, an undergraduate student at the University of Iowa said at the rally to the crowd’s applause. “[They] promote a money-hungry agenda that is killing us.”

In addition to outrage, many speakers expressed grief and fear of becoming victims themselves, a fear that found its most plain expression in the words of the rally’s youngest speaker, sixth grade Longfellow Elementary student Margalit Frank.

“I am 12 years old, and I don’t want to be murdered,” she said.

She said feeling unsafe in school is a routine experience for her and her family.

“Our parents can’t even promise us a safe day at school,” Frank said. “They can’t promise us that we will come home … I don’t want to think about who could be next. My 8-year-old brother? My 5-year-old brother? I don’t want to know that it is a possibility that any of us could be learning math or history and the next moment be covered in blood.”

Shayna Jaskolka, a senior at City High, echoed this sentiment.

“I don’t want to become an afterthought,” she said, referring to the tendency for mass shooting to rapidly vanish from the news cycle. “I don’t want to be in the media for a day and then forgotten.”

Speakers and organizers said that banning military-style assault rifles and improving background checks are primary goals of the movement.

“There should be longer background checks,” Phoebe Chapnick-Sorokin, a City High senior said. “There should be more regulation as to who should be able to buy a gun. I shouldn’t be able to buy a gun.”

Chapnick-Sorokin, a member of Students Against School Shootings or SASS, the organization primarily responsible for organizing the march in Iowa City, said that her organization’s commitment to gun reform will continue after March for Our Lives ends.

“We’re going to keep protesting until something happens,” she said.

Frank said it is time for adults to take children and minors more seriously on the issue of gun control.

“Whenever children try to make a point, we are shushed and told we don’t understand, but we understand too well,” Frank said. “We understand that our parents love us and want to protect us, but unless we get reasonable gun control, these shootings will continue.”

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