Katherine Huggins, Mirada Staff

Tragic instances of gun violence have sparked mass efforts of youth activists hoping to inspire reform.

As a part of this wave of student activism, Six Civitas students traveled to the Capitol on May 17 to speak during “Youth Speaking Out Against Gun Violence,” a program sponsored by assembly member Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer Sr.

As the Chair of the Public Safety Committee of the State Assembly, Jones-Sawyer explained the importance of involving youth in policy making.

“The best thinkers and the best dialogues I’ve ever had on my issues are from people under 18 years old,” Jones-Sawyer. “You’re not trying to be on TV, you’re not trying to get publicity, you’re not trying to get a job. This is real activism.”

The event began with a press conference on the south steps of the Capitol.

Over a hundred students from different schools across the Northern California area stood behind speakers with signs that said “We are the change.”

One of the five press conference speakers was senior Sam Macriss, who delivered a speech on the importance of ensuring safety at schools.

“It should just be the norm that when we go to school we are not afraid that we will become another statistic in the face of gun violence,” Macriss said. “We shouldn’t be afraid that when we go to school we could go home in a body bag instead of in our school sweatshirt.”

In a plea to legislators to advocate for stricter gun laws, Macriss said, “It is your job to change legislation, that’s why you were elected in the first place.”

She finished by saying that if legislators fail to change laws, our generation will.

“This is the first year that I’ll be able to vote in a primary or national election,” Macriss said. “I guarantee that when I vote, and the students who are like me who turned 18 this year, we will not be voting for representatives who are anything but committed our safety in schools a number one priority.”

At the press conference, assembly member Wendy Carillo also took a moment to speak out about her stance on gun violence.

“Twenty weeks into 2018 there have already been 21 school shootings,” Carillo said. “We need more than just thoughts and prayers and that is why we are here to take action.”

Carillo pointed out that “young people and low-income communities have faced the challenge of gun violence for decades, so this is not anything new.”

The demonstration then changed to an informal panel of students who voiced their opinions and concerns to Jones-Sawyer and was followed by an open forum for students’ comments and questions.

Two of the panelists were seniors Brittney Desselle and Audrey Tachiera.

Desselle advocated against arming teachers and for better mental health care.

“Taking care of a weapon and balancing students could lead to an accident that can’t be prevented,” Desselle said. “After all the pain and suffering this country has gone through, it’s time to take a step towards positive change.”

Tachiera remarked on the absurdness of some of the proposed solutions to school shooters, including throwing rocks at gunmen.

“While some ideas have more validity than others, all of them place responsibility of safety on the school districts, teacher, parents and students,” Tachiera said. “It is not the responsibility of children to attack gunmen with rocks or run at them in times of crisis. It is the responsibility of the government to protect its citizens.”

Civitas freshman Ryan Cervinka then voiced his worry about the lack of a codified system of emergency drills in schools.

Thanks to Cervinka’s question, Sawyer-Jones is now considering making a law about “across-the-board protocol for drills in schools for school shooters.”

Jones-Sawyer felt inspired by the students’ passion and desire for change.

“I don’t think you guys realize ten years from now, you’ll be able to say you were there from when it started,” Jones-Sawyer said. “When they write history, you will be able to say you were a part of it.”