Orange-clad students, staff and faculty gathered for USF’s student-organized gun reform protest in Gleeson Plaza on April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting. Orange is the color for gun reform awareness. It is traditionally the color worn by hunters so they won’t accidentally shoot one another, but has been restyled to symbolise gun safety. Together, the audience said the name “Chari McCline” three times at the request of guest speaker Ernest Morgan. His experience with gun violence moved the attendees: Morgan accidentally shot and killed his sister, Chari McCline, when he was 18.
The protest was organized by senior international studies major Ali Buck, with support from the international studies and politics departments. Buck decided to create this protest because USF hadn’t formally planned anything for the March for Our Lives demonstration and because of her strong passion for gun reform. She said that Congress hasn’t done anything, and she wants her voice to be heard, now that she’s of voting age. “I’ve became more interested in policies that politicians focus on. Particularly, the fact that the NRA contributes a lot of money to certain congressional districts in order to promote their agenda,” Buck said.
Buck said that she thought that student-led movements are an ideal way for students who care about their future, especially those too young to vote, to be heard. “I feel like students have been stuck in this rut of not having faith in our government, because they feel as though our generation is being dictated by the generation above us,” she said. The protest featured a variety of speakers in addition to Morgan, including: Ali Buck, freshman politics major Blythe Kelly, senior international studies major Cameron Chapman-Pinto, sociology professor Kimberly Richman and theology professor Jorge Aquino.
Morgan, a mentee of Richman, shared his story with gun violence to shed light on a topic in relation to policy reform. He was a troubled Oakland high schooler in the late ’80s and had one day obtained a gun from his friend. “It was only to scare those high school punks,” he said, referring to the students who disrespected him. He never had the intention of using the gun – it was only for intimidation. This changed on the evening of September 4, 1987.
After a confrontation with other high schoolers, he ran a few blocks home with the gun. He was locked out of the house because he was on bad terms with his mother, but snuck in through the balcony, which his stepsister, Chari McCline, left unlocked for him. No one was meant to be home until 9:30 p.m., but his sister was ill and decided to come home at 5:30 p.m. Hearing the door unlock, Morgan fired out of fear. “I didn’t realise it was Chari until she fell to the ground and I saw her in her favourite pink and white sweater,” he said. Morgan took a deep breath and continued. “I didn’t realise this feeling I had was anger, because I felt scared.” Morgan said that if there’s a way for guns to not exist, it would be beautiful. “Although there are these strict laws, it’s just a warning. If you have a gun, you have accepted the reality that you are ready and willing to kill somebody and that’s not good at all.”
The speakers at the event covered a variety of topics related to gun reform. In Aquino’s speech, he pushed back against the National Rifle Association’s idea of arming teachers. He said, “This is the most stupid idea I’ve ever heard. I would rather be shot dead by a student than carry a gun into a classroom.”
Freshman politics major Hina’oholeva Filimoehala-Egan expressed safety concerns as well, stating, “I shouldn’t have to be afraid of getting shot when I’m at a club with my friends.” She explained that she understands the second amendment, but at the point it was written, we did need a gun for protection.
Buck said, “California’s gun laws are great, but they’re stepping stones.” She explained that although she wishes the issue was black and white, there are obvious reasons for people to have guns. “In my perfect world, you wouldn’t be able to own a gun, but I understand that people want to hunt, so just keep that at a safe zone.” Buck also explains that guns make suicides more lethal, saying, “Often times when guns aren’t used, people are glad they survived. A gun is much faster and it doesn’t leave much room for evaluation.” Furthermore, both Buck and Professor Richman believes that policemen using tasers can be better, because a mistake won’t lead to lives lost.