Nebraska Students Demand Further Gun Reform Five Years After Massive School Strikes
LINCOLN, Nebraska (Nebraska Examiner) — Students at the Nebraska State Capitol on Thursday demanded gun safety measures and called on the Legislature to end efforts on a bill to “unauthorized” concealed carry guns.
Jaden Speed, Founder of Student Demand Action in Nebraska, addresses the need for firearms reform Thursday, March 16, 2023 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Zach Wendling / Nebraska Examiner)
Various organizations, including Nebrascans Against Gun Violence, Huskers Against Gun Violence, and Students Demand Action, linked Thursday’s press conference to National Strike Day March 14, 2018. . On this day five years ago, nearly 3,000 students from coast to coast, including schools from Omaha to North Platte in Nebraska, walked out of their classrooms.
Students demanded action following the February 14, 2018 shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which killed 17 people.
“Today, five years after students left their schools, we entered this Capitol building to demand that our legislators abandon the extreme policies of NRA leaders and give priority to common sense gun laws,” 18 said. -year-old Jaden Speed. “We need to prioritize saving lives over more guns. We can’t take our eyes off this crisis.”
Speed, who founded the Nebraska chapter of Student Demand Action, said he was involved in preventing gun violence at age 13 in 2018 during these strikes.
“Many of us have been shaken by the thought that our schools have been the target of a national epidemic of gun violence,” Speed said.
Simone Hill, founder of Huskers Against Gun Violence, addresses the need for firearms reform Thursday, March 16, 2023 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Zach Wendling / Nebraska Examiner)
Simone Hill said she founded Huskers Against Gun Violence because she was “tired of feeling powerless again”. Hill stepped down in 2018 and said on Thursday that youth voices need to be raised “now more than ever before.”
Speed, Hill, and Melody Vaccaro, executive director of Nebraskans Against Gun Violence, noted that gun violence is currently the leading cause of death among children. Until 2020, car accident deaths were the leading cause of death.
Congress passed the bipartisan Safer Communities Act in the aftermath of last year’s shooting in Uvalde, Texas, and is the first major piece of legislation in almost 30 years to tackle gun violence.
However, Vaccaro said more needed to be done, including in Nebraska.
Vaccaro said senators are prioritizing legislation such as Legislative Bill 77, proposed by State Senator Tom Brewer of Gordon, as the number of bills that can be passed in this session remains small.
“It’s disgusting. It’s monstrous,” Vaccaro said. “And the children of Nebraska, the children of the United States, we all deserve better.”
Freshman Senator Promises to Fight
The LB 77 is Brewer’s long-awaited attempt to circumvent the ban on concealed carry that became the centerpiece of Thursday’s press conference. Brewer’s bill passed the first of three required rounds of debate on March 3.
Brewer said his bill is meant to “clean up the laws” to make it easier for people to protect themselves, their families or businesses.
State Senator Jane Raybould of Lincoln advocates for further gun reforms Thursday, March 16, 2023 in Lincoln, Nebraska. In her hand is a clipping of a Raybould preschooler, Octavia, whom Raybould said the reforms would support. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)
State Senator Jane Raybould of Lincoln, who led an eight-hour filibuster campaign against LB 77, said voters should demand that their senators vote against Brewer’s bill because it would increase gun availability.
Instead, Raybould supported LB 482, the Suicide Risk Protection Act, which she proposed. The law will allow the court to intervene when a person has access to a firearm, threatens violence, and poses a danger to themselves or others.
Similar laws exist in at least 19 states and are sometimes referred to as “red flag” laws.
The Judicial Committee considered the law on February 10, but no progress was made.
“You are the greatest supporters in the world helping to make clear to my fellow senators how important this issue is. [is]how important this is to the future of our state of Nebraska,” Raybould told students on Thursday.
Raybould added that it is unacceptable for senators to “bury their heads in the sand and ignore the facts” about how students feel about their safety.
“We have to do more than what we’re doing now,” Raybould said.
Not safe at school
LaNia Robinson, a junior at Lincoln High School, said she attended various schools that had to put in place gun violence protections.
“Children shouldn’t be so afraid of something that shouldn’t be a problem for them,” LaNaya said.
Leah Nelson, a fifth grader from Omaha, talks about feeling insecure at her school because of guns on Thursday, March 16, 2023 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Zach Wendling / Nebraska Examiner)
Lea Nelson, a fifth grader from Omaha, said she was afraid to go to school every day for fear that there might be a threat similar to the exercises her school does.
According to Leah, fifth graders like her shouldn’t have to worry about how to get out of the building in the event of a shooting, or even think about shooting at all.
“Sometimes I feel very insecure at school,” Leah said. “I feel like it’s unreasonable and it’s just really scary.”
Laura Roberts, an elementary school teacher at Lincoln, said students ask about school shootings when they happen.
Roberts said that whenever there is a safety drill, she spends the rest of the day comforting her elementary school students, unable to do any work “because everyone is so scared.”
“The children are not okay and we should not put up with this situation,” she said.
‘Little Little Faces’
Maggie Miller-Jenkins said she went to the Legislature several times in this session to try to get senators to see “humanity” in what they are doing.
“There should be no market for safety vests for kids who go to elementary school,” Miller-Jenkins said. “I shouldn’t worry about telling my 5 year old daughter that she should be ready to hide under the table for any reason other than tornado exercises.”
Magie Miller-Jenkins of Lincoln talks about gun reform as she holds her daughter Atilss on Thursday, March 16, 2023 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Zach Wendling / Nebraska Examiner)
Miller-Jenkins said that when she was growing up in the 1980s, the only exercises she practiced were for tornadoes and fires.
During the conversation, Miller-Jenkins’ daughter, Atliss, held on to her mother’s leg before her mother lifted her up:
“[Legislators] you have to look at those little tiny faces, because those little tiny faces are the faces on the memorials. These tiny faces are the faces that parents need to remember because they can only identify their children by their shoes,” Miller-Jenkins said.
“Your thoughts and prayers mean nothing,” she said, “because we still bury babies.”
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