More than 400 students and community members gathered in front of Frist Campus Center March 14 to rally against gun violence and advocate for stronger gun laws on a day of nationwide school walkouts and protests. Protesters offered personal stories, chanted, held up signs, and registered voters.
“So many people came from all different aspects of campus,” said Diego Negron-Reichard ’18, co-founder of Princeton Advocates for Justice, which organized the event. “The campus is fired up.”
The event was held one month after the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., in which 17 people died. Students shared experiences of gun violence in their own communities, such as the shooting of a school official or a friend. One speaker emphasized that the impacts of gun violence disproportionately affect black Americans.
“The right to arms is not absolute,” Sarah Sakha ’18 said. “It does not trump the right to life.”
Organizers said they were pleased with the turnout. Ben Bollinger ’21, leader of the newly formed Princeton Against Gun Violence advocacy group, said in an email that it was “flooded with new sign-ups” after the rally.
Bollinger said the group planned to meet with other grass-roots organizations seeking gun-reform legislation and was scheduling an event to phone New Jersey legislators later in the month. “We’re firing on all cylinders, trying to get people involved,” he said.
The Gun Safety Club, a student organization that says it promotes firearms safety, interest in shooting events, and education about current gun issues, set up a table near the protest to offer an alternative viewpoint to those attending the rally. “It is up to us to represent in a civic manner a view that is underrepresented,” said Chance Fletcher ’18, a member of the club.
Many protesters approached the Gun Safety Club table to question the members or to present opposing views, club president Mikhael Smits ’18 said, but the atmosphere was respectful and cordial. Both Smits and Negron-Reichard said they felt supported by the University to express their views.
Yael Niv, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience, was one of several faculty members attending the rally. “As an Israeli, I think gun control (or lack thereof) in this country is one of the worst problems, and the one I am least in power to address with personal life choices,” Niv said in an email. “If guns become allowable on campus and in schools, I literally might have to leave the country to go back to sanity.”
The University issued a statement about admission applicants’ right to protest that said, in part: “Students who act on their conscience in peaceful, principled protest will receive full consideration in our admissions process.”