Last Saturday, I woke up at 5:30 a.m. with 12 other Penn students to make the two and a half hour trip to Washington, D.C. for March for Our Lives. While on the train, at the gas station, and in between the inspiring speeches, I stopped to ask my fellow marchers what persuaded them to attend the event. This is what they had to say. 

Simran Chand (C ‘21)

Simran Chand (Photo courtesy of Angela Sun)

I’ve been directly affected by gun violence and I can see the effect that it has on entire communities and families. It should never be something that anyone has to go through, no matter where you live, who you are, your race, your religion, your gender, your identity, anything like that. It’s a very simple matter of life or death and it’s disgusting that nothing has been done up to this point and that people are dying every day from senseless mass shootings. 
I have lived in Newtown for ten years now and I was in 8th grade at the time of the Sandy Hook shooting. I went there for summer school and my brother was in elementary school at the time, one of the different elementary schools. Sandy Hook was right around the corner from where I was. I was on lockdown for some number of hours during the shooting. I remember the day like it was yesterday, and I saw directly how the families and the entire community reacted when 26 members of our community died. It was a lot. I have friends who are still dealing with it to this day—one of my best friends has PTSD, thousands of people in Newtown do, it’s very common. And even today, when you go there, you just see a lot of results of it. Like everyone around town will be wearing these “Be Kind” necklaces (Ed note: Simran wore hers to the march, pictured above) and signs about love, kindness, and respect are all across town. You can really see the belief that pervades throughout the entire town that love is stronger than hate.

Dylan Milligan (W ‘20)

Dylan Milligan (Photo courtesy of Angela Sun)

"There’s an RFK quote*, I don’t think I can quote it exactly, but it’s like, “One person stands up for what’s right, and they’re a single drop, but eventually they all form a wave of positive change…” I think being able to go here and be a single person amongst potentially a million people who are all demanding legislation and change in the way we approach gun laws is something that I feel is very personally gratifying. I know that one person doesn’t make a difference, but together, if we all have an attitude of advocacy and change then that’s the way we’re going to save lives. 
I also think a lot can be done on the local and state level. I know my home state recently passed a bump–stock ban and Pennsylvania is currently considering lots of new measures for gun control. Also on the business level, Dick’s Sporting Goods now does not sell rifles to people under 21. So anyone who says that going here is a waste of time, that Congress isn’t going to do shit...I mean, yeah, true, Congress isn’t going to do shit. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t do anything. Such a profoundly strong show of support for gun control and a sense of solidarity with victims of gun violence is very important for any sort of actors of policy, whether that’s at the business level, local, or state level."

*Note: Dylan is referring to, “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

Angela Sun (E ‘21)

Elise Reynolds (Photo courtesy of Angela Sun)

I’m from a part of the U.S.—central Indiana, five miles away from Mike Pence—that is very conservative. At my public high school, if you were over the age of eighteen and had a legal gun license, you could carry concealed. It was just very terrifying, because there were people I knew who would carry concealed on campus, at football games…There was this guy at my school who was in the special needs/disability program and legally brought a gun to school. One day, he started threatening this Asian exchange student, and he pulled out his gun and mockingly shot her and shit. And then the school went into lockdown, because it turned out that the gun was actually loaded at the time. 
It’s very real. I was talking to people back home and they were just like, “I was waiting for something like this to happen to us.” Where I come from, football games and football culture is huge. We always sell every Friday night. And when people are allowed to carry concealed in such a highly concentrated area, it’s terrifying. But that’s not what people are thinking about. They’re thinking about cheering for the home team, not “Oh, I might die today.” 

Sarah Jones (C ‘21)

I believe in the value of human life. Whenever there is an act of violence, a mass shooting, anything like that, I just can never understand what motivates the people, how you could not value human life. And the fact that our government also chooses not to value human life and thinks it’s more important to use an outdated, 18th century amendment to refuse to regulate 21st century weapons just baffles me. So many people have been affected by gun violence, and I’m lucky to not have been affected, but I just felt the need to go and support them. 
I was crying during half of the march. I remember the one girl from LA was talking about her brother who had died, and I just kept thinking, if my brother, Paul, was killed by gun violence, I don’t know what I would do. I look up to him so much and he’s such a great guy, so if he was just gone I don’t know how I would deal with that. 
I liked the one guy from Chicago a lot. He used a lot of Bible quotes in his speech, and I go to church pretty regularly so that really spoke to me. I feel like a lot of people focus on the aspects of hate that are in [the Bible] and don’t focus on the love that we should have for one another. 

Chris Cherian (C ‘21) 

Chris Cherian (Photo courtesy of Angela Sun)

I’m appalled at the inaction of Congress. I think it’s ridiculous that so many bills have been able to hit the Senate floor and then get voted down simply because of partisan lines. I hope to see tangible action in the future, and that’s why I’m marching. 
Gun violence is not an isolated issue. I think we’ve seen the vast spread of gun violence across the United States, whether it’s in cities, schools, churches, movie theaters...and, as unfortunate as it sounds, Penn is also in an area that can be touched by gun violence and I think it is important for the Penn community to get engaged and get involved if they feel so passionate about it.  

Elise Reynolds (C ‘19)

Angela Sun and Sarah Jones (Photo courtesy of Angela Sun)

I thought it was really amazing and powerful, to have all these people come together for a specific issue and to have it be completely led by young people. Not one person over the age of 21 spoke. Seeing eleven–year–olds speak more eloquently about these issues than any politicians ever do, it just gave me so much hope. So even if the politicians don’t do anything now, these kids are coming for office and they’re going to do something.
I think, for me, I marched not only for the lives lost but also for the lives that were affected. Family members, friends, and everyone in the community is affected, dealing with trauma, PTSD, and finding it difficult to go about their daily lives because of this violence. I think we have an obligation as a country to stand up, and that’s why I was there. 

These seven marchers were only a small fraction of the several hundred thousand that participated in total, and the diversity of representation was expansive. A school group from North Carolina stood to our left in the crowd, an elderly couple from New York rode the train with us, and a San Diego mom with her son talked with us while in line for tacos. While we may have arrived in D.C. alongside other Penn students, we left the city knowing that frustration with gun violence extends far beyond our campus.