- Delaney Tarr and Tyah Amoy-Roberts, two co-Founders of March For Our Lives, said the pandemic has a double-edged irony on gun safety.
- March was the first month in 18 years the US hasn’t experienced a school shooting.
- But gun violence has now become a threat at home – gun purchases are up by nearly 85% since 2019.
- The fight for a world free of gun violence has moved online with OUR POWER, March for Our Lives’ digital space.
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If you had asked us seven weeks ago what the biggest threat facing school-aged kids was, gun violence in our schools, without a question, would have been at the top of our list. However, COVID-19, has changed the world and our lives in ways never imagined.
Ironically, gun violence remains a dangerous and lethal threat for far too many of us, and those dangers have only been heightened due to the crisis.
The majority of us, some 74.2 million students, have now been home for more than a month and the reality is it’s bound to remain like this for some time. A couple of weeks ago, it was reported that March was the first month since 2002 that our nation had not experienced a school shooting.
This was not the result of policymakers passing laws to protect students or fortifying schools like prisons to stop would be shooters. It is a sad and unfortunate reality that a global pandemic has done what policymakers in Washington have been unable to do: make our schools, at least temporarily, free of gun violence.
The threat of gun violence has heightened at home
Over the nearly two months that we’ve been sheltering in place, the statistics make clear just how dangerous it can be to live at home and just how more dangerous it has become as a result of COVID.
Since about March, gun purchases are up nearly 85% from 2019, and those seeking to own a firearm have broken records, particularly with first-time buyers. But, this is just the tip of a complicated and dangerous iceberg that has us seriously concerned.
In America, nearly 5 million kids live in homes with at least one loaded and unlocked firearm. Last year, children were responsible for 241 unintentional shootings, 103 deaths, and 149 injuries. Of those unintentional shooting deaths, 89% were due to kids playing with a loaded gun without parental knowledge or guidance.
In addition to the increased risk posed to children as a result of spending more time at home, national and global reports indicate that domestic violence is on the rise with police departments, domestic violence hotlines, and advocates indicating major upticks in domestic violence and sexual assault incidents.
The Giffords Law Centre has data that shows that almost one million women have been shot by an intimate partner and nearly five million women have said an intimate partner has threatened them with a gun. The social, mental, and economic stress placed on individuals and families due to COVID puts women and children at greater risk today than ever before.
The gun violence movement has gone digital
When we started March For Our Lives, we imagined a world in which young people could go to school without fear of being shot or killed for simply wanting to learn. So we took to the streets, and since then we have been protesting, organising, and lobbying to make the world feel safer for young people in communities across the country.
In the face of the pandemic, and despite this global threat, we continue to fight and advocate because we know that the epidemic of gun violence in the United States isn’t just about our schools but about changing our national culture around guns that has made us unsafe at school, at home, at concerts – wherever we may be.
It’s for these reasons that we’re not letting up in the fight to ensure that our communities are safer for young people everywhere – pandemic or not. While we’re at home we’re organising from our rooms and on our phones. We’ve taken our movement temporarily off the streets and out of the offices of elected officials, and into the digital space. We’ve created a digital hub, OUR POWER, for students to join us online.
OUR POWER is more than an idea or a virtual place to organise. It’s a place to feel safe, find much needed support, connect with others, keep the movement going, join a book club, phone bank, hear from key voices, and just be ourselves.
When we come out of this, young people will need to be ready to stand up together. The world will need our hope and our passion for a better and safer tomorrow. Because, we are the changemakers, and our activism does not pause in the wake of a pandemic.
The fight for a safer world, free of gun violence, must go on.
Delaney Tarr and Tyah Amoy-Roberts are Co-Founders of March For Our Lives and both graduates of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Tyah is a current student at Stanford University and March For Our Lives Executive Board Member. Delaney is a student at The University of Georgia.
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