Lessons from the White House

By Ethan Nichols, World News Editor

This July, I received a personal invitation from President Joe Biden to attend an event at the White House to celebrate the passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.

I first became involved in the gun violence prevention movement in 2018 following the Parkland shooting. After witnessing yet another shooting involving the murder of kids my age, I decided enough was enough and got involved. I marched, I protested and I wrote to my legislators.

In the spring of 2018, I began formally implementing my own organization in Ohio — Students for Gun Legislation. We later incorporated as a nonprofit and expanded nationally.

After meeting survivors of gun violence, I knew that it was time for comprehensive change as to how we as a society view guns. 

When in D.C., I met Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and congressional leadership. The visit further reinforced the idea of how absolutely critical it is to be actively involved. Being oblivious to politics is dangerous. 

Many choose to simply not pay attention to politics or to not engage. For decades it was considered rude to ask who you voted for. This has directly led to the crises we now face. If we can’t engage in productive dialogue, get involved and take the time to educate ourselves, our friends and our families, how will anything ever change? Young people need to get involved, and they need to stay involved. 

Gun violence is an issue that directly affects young people. I can’t tell you what was different about the massacre in Uvalde, but thank God it was. The era of “thoughts and prayers” is over. 

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was the first major piece of gun violence prevention legislation in decades. While we desperately need comprehensive federal legislation to address the public health crisis that is gun violence, it is increasingly difficult to get this legislation passed. Our elected representatives, on both sides of the aisle, lack the political will to fight for universal background checks and an assault weapons ban. 

That’s why state level elections are so important. Here in Ohio, extremist Republicans have pushed through dangerous legislation like “Stand Your Ground,” which eliminates the duty to retreat and allows anyone with a firearm to use their weapon willy-nilly. These laws are often referred to as “shoot first” laws. 

With our federal representatives unwilling to take action, it makes clear the need to elect gun sense champions to the state legislature. Breaking the Republican supermajority in the state legislature will allow us to finally fight back against this dangerous legislation and enact common sense measures supported by not only the vast majority of Ohioans, but also the vast majority of Americans. 

One of the most striking things I noticed while at the White House was how many young people were invited. In 2018, we saw young voters show up in historic numbers to vote. This followed the Parkland massacre in which 17 people, the majority of which were students younger than most of us, were left dead in their school.

Many of us participated in the March For Our Lives in 2018, one of the largest protests in American history. We have not seen this level of youth engagement in decades, and it’s inspiring to see so many young people advocating for issues they care about. 

So please, I implore you, get involved. Read the news, educate yourself on the issues. Discuss elections and issues with your friends. Once you identify an issue you’re passionate about, start to act. Send letters, call your legislators or organize a protest. Young voices matter, so make yours heard.