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Students launch initiative against gun violence, “Say Their Names”

Sara Jane Wardlaw, a Georgia State sophomore, posted flyers throughout Georgia State campus depicting the names of the victims who lost their lives in the school shooting in Parkland, FL. Photo by Vanessa Johnson | The Signal

A day after the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, Georgia State student Sara Jane Wardlaw decided it was time to raise awareness on gun violence around the university’s campus.

Wardlaw, alongside her friend Michelle Brown, put up posters around Georgia State’s campus that highlighted the names of the 17 victims that lost their lives on Feb. 14, 2018.

“We were like, ‘what can we do?’ because we need to do something to make this stop,” she said. “As students, we have a role to play and to get our voices heard and I think we are able to unify as a group.”

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Wardlaw said she’s been in touch with college students across the country who have agreed to put up the same posters on their campuses as well.

Wardlaw also participated in a gun control protest at the Georgia Capitol last week, led by the advocacy organization Moms Demand Action, which fights for gun reform across the country. Over 1,500 people participated in the protest and took the chance to talk to legislators about new bills that could address the issue.

“Throughout the whole protest, we were constantly told that ‘nobody is trying to get rid of guns, that’s not the goal of the protest, that’s not the goal of Moms Demand Action’. The goal is to make sure that the people who have guns are responsible gun owners,” Wardlaw said.

Wardlaw got the chance to talk to Rep. Brad Raffensperger, who was focused on school-oriented solutions and emphasized that it was up to individual schools to set precautionary guidelines.

“I didn’t think he responded the way I had hoped he would. He still was talking about how it was the school’s responsibility,” Wardlaw said. “If it’s the school’s responsibility, why are we allowing campus carry at Georgia State? That seems to negate every precaution. If you don’t want guns on campus, don’t allow guns on campus.”

According to Wardlaw, Raffensperger told her that they voted in favor of campus carry with women in mind, wanting to keep women safe.

“I feel less safe, and I’m sure many other women feel less safe, teachers students, professors, to know that anybody can be carrying a gun on campus,” she said.

For Wardlaw, preventing something like this from happening again lies in common-sense laws.

“I personally wouldn’t want guns but I know that’s not a realistic compromise. So just making sure that there’s background checks and that people who have mental illnesses won’t be able to get their hands on a gun, the types of guns, we shouldn’t have these AR-15s. We shouldn’t have those. And domestic violence abusers. They’re able to get their hands on guns and that’s something we should take into consideration,” she said.

For other students, like Madeline Walker, the solution lies in creating communities. Walker put up a Facebook post in the group ‘GSU Book Exchange’ asking students if they’d be interested in joining a ‘hangout’ club aimed at helping students make new friends.

“So lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the school shooting in Florida, and how an issue the shooter had was he was bullied and didn’t have any friends,” Walker posted. “I would really like to start a sort of “hangout” club at Georgia State, where maybe if you are new and struggling to find friends or just want to make some new ones, we could have a group where we meet up every so often.”

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