“Gun control is a serious problem, and something needs to be done to stop that.”
So spoke Mary Lewis Grow, founder of the Carleton Challenge Against Gun Violence, Carleton’s newest activist group on campus.
While students may know Grow as the wife of popular Carleton International Relations professor Roy Grow, she is also a passionate activist in favor of gun control. While the club’s primary goal is to raise awareness and generate phone calls to support President Obama’s gun control policy, it also focuses locally in Minnesota.
“We hope to influence the passing of the bill now in the Minnesota legislature concerning increased background checks for gun owners, and if that passes, hopefully another bill banning the ownership of assault weapons will follow,” said Raina van Duym ’15, one of the club’s members.
The bill in question was originally intended to provide universal background checks for gun sales, but several Democratic state representativeswere unsure about whether to back it and potentially go against the wishes of their constituents. Challenge members started a campaign to motivate Minnesotan Carleton students to call their state representatives and encourage them to pass the bill.
Unfortunately, while the bill received bipartisan support from 73 cosponsors in the Minnesota House, it was introduced into the House in a watered-down form. While the bill tweaks gun laws and cracks down in illegal gun owners, it does not include universal background checks, an assault weapons ban, or restrictions on high-capacity magazines.
“The assault weapon ban and the ban on high-capacity magazines bills were removed when the Senate decided not to give them a hearing,” explained Grow. “The universal background check bill is still under consideration but the Democratic leadership in the Legislature has not been supportive, so their caucus is split. At this point, it’s very hard to see what will happen.” Grow also noted that the legislation must receive an affirmative vote in either the House or the Senate by March 15, or it will die before reaching the floor.
However, the Challenge is not solely based on gun control. A significant portion of its long-term goals also include national gun control policy, particularly through phonebanking. “We’re asking Carleton students to call their legislators about supporting President Obama’s gun control agenda, and then ask ten other friends, relatives [and other people] to do the same,” said Robbie Emmet ’16.
To achieve this goal, Challenge members are setting up a phone bank this Tuesday in the Athenaeum. “Our goal is to get students to contribute to a phone web...where everyone calls people they know and urges them to contact their representatives about the issues of gun control,” said van Duym. The event will be held from 2-4 PM, and food will be served.
“Our plan is to have students call their own representatives, as well as calling other friends and family members and initiating promises for calls as well,” said Matthew Fitzgerals ‘14, who helped found the club.
The final goal of the club is to raise awareness about gun violence. “We want to hit home the fact that gun violence does not occur only in a few tragic, isolated incidents, but that it is a widespread and pressing issue facing our nation every day,” said Caroline Lauth ’15. As one of the members in charge of publicity, she and several other students [Polly Durant ’14, Jacob Hamalian ’14, Kaitlyn Gerber ’14 and Evan Summers ’14] are responsible for creating and distributing posters throughout campus which contain sobering facts about gun violence. “We wanted to inform students of just how huge and alarming the problem really is,” she said. Posters included statistics, such as the fact that in 2007, more preschoolers were killed by guns that police officers in the line of duty.
The issue of gun violence is especially pertinent to students who come from areas where it is more prevalent. “Among the Carleton population, many [students] may be from Chicago and other cities which have struggled with gun violence,” said Emmet. Several of the club’s own members are from areas where gun violence has made national news in the past several years, and many expressed how upset it made them to see so much problematic gun violence near their own homes.
“I think about what happened in my home state in December…and it [still] makes me want to cry,” said a student who asked not to be identified, but lives near Newtown, CT. “It makes me want to change things.”
Still, even students who are not personally affected are urged to consider thinking about the issue. “Fortunately,” said Lauth, “many of us have never been personally affected by gun violence, but just because we are extremely privileged in that sense does not mean that we shouldn’t care about this issue. The effects of gun violence touch everyone who lives in the US. It is a widespread problem that I think has a significant impact on our national psyche.”
The Carleton Challenge offers a counterexample to people who think Carleton students do not care about politics, and hopes to have a significant impact on the campus community.
“We want to generate action through education,” said Fitzgerald. “The phonebanking event is all about short-term goals, but with long-term implications.”