A student has started an initiative for a Dickinson-based chapter of the March for Our Lives campaign in order to bring awareness of gun violence to the campus community.
March for Our Lives (MFOL) is a national organization created by high school students in 2018 after a shooting that killed 17 at Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland, Fla. According to the MFOL website, the campaign seeks to stop normalizing gun violence and to “create a safe and compassionate nation for our youth to grow up in.”
Jacob Attias ’22, lead organizer of the prospective Dickinson chapter, said he was “shocked and upset” after the Parkland shooting, and he was “terrified that if no action [takes place] …horrific acts of mass shootings would become normalized in our society.” Attias admired the MFOL campaign because of their “youth led approach to advocating for some common sense gun laws,” he said. Attias reached out to three other students to start the process of establishing a MFOL chapter on campus. “[W]e are now in the process of becoming an officially recognized student organization on campus,” Attias said.
Attias sent a statement of intent to create a Dickinson chapter to the national MFOL organization, then contacted the regional director to register the chapter. Attias asked Professor of Political Science James Hoefler to advise the group, but said the club will be “exclusively student run.”
Hoefler said he agreed to be the advisor because “I think it’s an important cause, which I wholeheartedly support.”
Student interest in the chapter has been high, said Attias, especially from students who attended MFOL marches around the U.S. last year. “It is inspiring and uplifting to keep in mind the amount of young people that feel so strongly about using their voices to create a change in their communities and nation,” Attias said.
Other students soon joined Attias to help lead the club. Elizabeth Ensslin ’22 said she was excited when Attias expressed his interest in creating a Dickinson MFOL chapter because “I’d done a lot of work at my high school with gun violence prevention.” Ensslin hopes for students to get involved with the club. “I hope we can organize events that provide more information for people willing to get involved, and work with MFOL…to get legislation passed,” she said “I’m hoping Dickinson students will be eager to make action happen.”
Sophie Ackert ’21, who participated in gun violence prevention organizations in her home town of Sandy Hook, Ct., said she was “happy when I heard someone wanted to start a MFOL chapter at Dickinson.” Ackert said her hope for the club is to “provide students with tools and opportunities to become active in the GVP [Gun Violence Prevention] movement” including education on calling congressmembers and attending events.
Attias said students from different political parties have shown interest in the chapter because of MFOL’s non-partisan platform.
Attias wants students who participate in the Dickinson chapter to learn more about gun violence and to contact their local congress members about gun reform. “If students at Dickinson used their voices to reach out to [Pennsylvania]’s senators and member[s] of congress, they could help influence them to be more in favor of gun safety issues.”
The first general MFOL club meeting will be in April pending Student Senate approval.