Westport youth keep the gun control conversation going
WESTPORT — It’s been nearly two years since the horrific school shooting in Parkland, Fla., sparked a wave of youth activists for gun control, and students at Staples High School students are looking to continue the conversation.
On Jan. 24 at Toquet Hall, the Westport chapter of Students Demand Action are hosting a day of gun violence prevention activism. The event is set to start at 3:30 p.m. and include information on voter registration, speakers and performances.
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“Young people are deeply affected by socioeconomic issues, and especially gun violence,” said Elana Atlas, a 16-year-old Staples High School student.
Atlas, who heads the Westport chapter of Students Demand Action, said gun violence is the second leading cause of death for American teens. The intersectional issue is widespread, which is why it’s important everyone has a voice on the matter, she said.
“If those voices aren’t welcomed in the discussion, then the discourse surrounding gun violence is missing an integral piece,” she said. “It’s not truly American because it’s not representing all of the parties.”
The youth-led event is supported by its parent organization — Moms Demand Action.
People can sign up for the Day of Gun Violence Prevention Activism event by visiting https://act.everytown.org/event/sda-events/29822/signup/?source=&akid=&zip=.
“The Fairfield-Westport Local Group of Moms Demand Action is thrilled to have students join with us in this movement to end gun violence,” organization head Rachel Dreyfus said. “It is essential their voices are heard because they are the ones most affected.”
Students taking a stand could make a difference and help save lives, she added.
“What starts as a single club event today in Westport has the potential to become an ongoing effort that helps bring about the change we need to see from Washington D.C.,” Dreyfus said.
The community event looks to continue the dialogue on gun control while also providing tangible actions, including detailed information about legislators’ and 2020 candidates’ stances on the topic.
“I think it’s really important to keep up consistent pressure on our legislators to make sure they know we haven’t forgotten about this,” Atlas said. “We always have the opportunity when elections roll around to hold our legislators accountable. ... One of the key things we need to end the American gun violence epidemic is gun violence prevention legislation.”
Atlas’ passion for activism stemmed from her own experience in 2018, when a threat allegedly made by a Staples student led to the building being evacuated. Atlas, a freshman at the time, recalled being fearful in the moment, not knowing if her friends were alright. Luckily, the quick work of Westport police and Staples administrators averted any potential tragedy from occurring.
“That was the last straw for me, and I decided I needed to do something,” Atlas said.
She has since participated in and organized rallies highlighting gun violence. With the upcoming event, Atlas said she hopes to show Westport is still very much involved.
“The point of this is to remind our community that this movement hasn’t fizzled and neither has the issue,” she said. “This is still happening and we’re here, and we’re still fighting it. ”