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Notre Dame-based chapter of Students Demand Action holds Gun Violence Prevention Week

| Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The first-ever Gun Violence Prevention Week commenced Monday night, hosted by the nonpartisan Notre Dame Students Against Gun Violence club — the Notre Dame-based chapter of national organization Students Demand Action. Seniors Hailey Fulwider and Liam Dalton have worked together to plan the week with three nights of events corresponding to the overall theme of “surviving, forgiving and acting.”

After a survivor town hall event hosted by the club in February, Fulwider and Dalton started to envision a full gun violence prevention week, Fulwider said.

Fulwider said the club purposely scheduled Gun Violence Prevention Week to culminate with the April 20, 1999, anniversary of the shooting at the Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. 

On Monday night, a panel of local gun violence survivors discussed their experiences and how their lives have been affected by shootings.

“We think connecting with survivors and hearing survivors’ stories is really powerful in understanding how gun violence even affects people years and years after and also for understanding that there are many, many types of gun violence,” Fulwider said. “Suicide is one of the number one forms of gun violence.”

Fulwider, who is a gun violence survivor, spoke at Monday night’s panel and said other survivors should attend the event.

“When I came to school away from my high school community that I had experienced the trauma with, I felt very alone,” Fulwider said. “I think it’s important … for survivors to come so that they can realize that there are other people who have gone through similar things even when it’s not talked about on a regular basis.”

The keynote event of the week is an evening with Rev. Sharon Risher, a survivor of the Charleston Church shooting in 2015. Risher will speak Tuesday night from 7 to 8 p.m. in the LaFortune Student Center Ballroom. Student gospel choir group Voices of Faith will also perform at the event.

Dalton said he and Fulwider chose Risher as the keynote speaker because of her commitment to fighting both gun violence and racial injustice.

“Rev. Sharon Risher is a really important voice to the issue of gun violence in this country, particularly as it intersects with race and the rise of white supremacy, and also relating it back to our University’s core mission, which is to use our faith to relate to the world and to understand core issues of social justice, of violence prevention [and] making the world work for more people,” Dalton said.

Dalton added he thinks Risher’s story offers a powerful message of hope for those who attend the event.

“I think students will be amazed to look into the eyes and hear someone speak who lost their mother, two of their cousins and a childhood friend in a shooting that was racially motivated … in a place of worship, and in a deep contemplation of her faith, [she] was able to come out and forgive the shooter,” Dalton said. 

Wednesday night’s event, which will take place in a social space in Badin Hall from 7 to 8 p.m., concerns student involvement in preventing gun violence and promoting mental health resources through support of student club Active Minds and the University Counseling Center. 

Fulwider said students should more aware of what is happening in South Bend for both their own safety and to cultivate civic responsibility.

“[Gun violence] happens a lot in South Bend, and I think it’s our duty as students, if we are going to be living in South Bend for four years, to know what’s happening to the citizens and also for our own safety,” Fulwider said. “Being a part of a community means knowing what happens and knowing whose safety is being comprised.”

Fulwider also said gun violence is a pro-life issue.

“I think [gun violence] needs to be recognized on campus as something where, if you’re going to consider yourself pro-life, then you’re also thinking about the people whose lives are affected by gun violence and taken from gun violence,” she said.

Both Fulwider and Dalton emphasized that the club and its events are nonpartisan.

“Similar to the fact that everyone should care about gun violence, no matter if they’ve experienced it or not … I think that gun violence is an equalizer of everyone,” Fulwider said. “It doesn’t target people based on political party. … It’s about making sure that people who have guns know how to use them safely and store them safely and that people who have histories of abuse and violence cannot get their hands on guns.”

Dalton said it is important to hold forums where individuals can learn how to use their vote, in terms of local, state and national issues to support gun safety legislation, regardless of an individual’s political affiliation. 

“If they’re an independent thinker, the vast majority of Americans are in favor of common-sense gun laws, like universal background checks,” Dalton said. “If we can change one person’s mind, we think that the probabilities may change in the future in terms of us actually overcoming many of the obstacles that have stopped these laws from being passed in the past.”

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