After the Newtown school massacre, people all over the country -- including many Carleton students – grieved for those who were gunned down and the young lives tragically cut short. And many of us experienced, yet again, anger and frustration that our country leads the developed world in lives lost to gun violence.
But emotions don’t require anything of us; taking action to bring about change is harder. Do people in this community care enough about reducing gun violence to spend an hour or two trying to do something about it?
It’s often difficult to know how to translate our societal hopes and values into effective action, so some of us have been meeting for several weeks to discuss ways in which we, as individuals and as a campus, can make a positive difference in reforming our gun laws.
Thus, our challenge to the Carleton community:
Both Congress and the Minnesota Legislature are currently considering firearms measures that will save lives: universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, anti-trafficking measures, and, in Minnesota, greater autonomy for cities and localities that wish to enact stricter regulations than the lowest common denominator used in state law.
Since we know that lawmakers are influenced by how many constituents they hear from on a given side of an issue, it behooves those of us who favor strengthening our country’s weak gun laws to be sure that our voices are as insistent, as passionate, and as committed as those of the gun lobby.
Students at Carleton come from all over the state of Minnesota and the U.S., with a combined reach that extends to much of the country.
“The Carleton Challenge” is looking for students, faculty, and staff who will take responsibility for recruiting 10 or 15 people to make calls to their US congressional representatives and senators and -- in those states where state legislation is pending -- to their state legislators. Those calls can be from Northfield, from other parts of Minnesota, or other parts of the country.
If you are willing to make this commitment – to respond to the Carleton Challenge -- sign your name in a spiral notebook that will remain in the Office of Civic Engagement. Ask those who promise to make calls to let you know when they have done so. Record the number of people who have made calls so you can put that number beside your name. Keep a list of the places that your “recruits” have called from so that we’ll know at the end of our effort how many different legislative districts and congressional districts we’ve reached. We’ll be putting a map of the United States and a map of Minnesota in Sayles, and we ask those students who are tired of gun violence to put a pin in the places where you have friends or family who will be making calls. The tremendous reach of Carleton students, faculty, and staff will be visible to the entire campus!
In the days ahead, we’ll be measuring the progress towards our goal. We’ll keep a running graph in a prominent place on campus, and look for an interactive electronic map that you’ll be able to check and put virtual pins in on-line.
If just 100 people at Carleton generate 15 calls apiece or 150 people 10 calls, our community would be responsible for 1500 calls to lawmakers! Now think of the multiplication effect if we issue the Carleton Challenge to other campuses and universities! If this community responds to the challenge, Carleton can provide a national blueprint that could change the outcome of the firearms legislation currently being debated in Congress. We can make a difference! Let’s do it!
Please note: A rally for stronger gun laws will take place on Monday, February 18 at 3:00 in the rotunda of the State Capitol. A sign-up sheet for those who would like a ride to the rally will be available in the Office of Civic Engagement.
For the Carleton Challenge to Reduce Gun Violence: Polly Durant, Sam Feigenbaum, Matthew Fitzgerald, Jacob Hamalian, Class of 2014, and Mary Lewis Grow, community member