There have been 42 incidents of gunfire on U.S. school grounds so far in 2023. One of the most recent shootings took place at the Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee, on March 27. One person was injured and six people were killed, three of whom were students.
Gun violence on school grounds in the U.S. saw a 50% increase in 2018. The shooting at Marjory Stoneman-Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, resulting in the deaths and injuries of 17 students, gained mass media attention.
In response to the shooting, thousands of protests and school walkouts erupted across America. Days after, a group of students from Marjory Stoneman-Douglas High School formed a nonprofit organization called March for Our Lives.
The organization has led anti-gun movements in America while gaining global attention.
Lehigh’s Student Political Action Committee and the College Democrats held a protest to mark the fifth anniversary of March for Our Lives on March 25.
A group of 10 to 15 protesters chanted and marched through E.W. Fairchild-Martindale Library and Linderman Library, drawing the attention of students studying.
Holana Ochs, faculty adviser of the two organizations, said she suggested chanting in the library because the goal of a protest is to draw attention and enact change.
Ochs said the students shouted, “We don’t have to live like this. We don’t have to die like this. Together we can change this. End gun violence. Silence won’t end gun violence.”
Amber Brose, ‘24, an executive board member on the committee, said they used chanting to demonstrate how abruptly a school shooter could walk into the library.
She said planning and obtaining the permits for a protest are more extensive than the blockades to stop a shooter.
Ochs said one of their goals was to communicate that people who believe in anti-gun measures cannot afford to be silent anymore.
“Gun violence is now the No. 1 cause of death in children — the No. 1,” Ochs said.
Kate Lyden, ‘24, one of the event’s organizers, said she understands students may feel disillusioned by anti-gun violence protests.
She referenced the shooting at the Covenant School, which took place two days after their protest.
“It was this awful, devilish irony,” Lyden said. “We marched around campus for three hours and then went to bed Monday night reading all of these articles about how the shooter had bought seven guns and walked into school with three guns, all of which were obtained legally.”
Lyden said she recognizes people may be fatigued by the issue of gun violence, and students may not participate directly in marches — sometimes opting for donating instead of walking — because they feel it won’t do anything. She said the goal of the protest was to spark more direct political action among the student body, such as joining in their advocacy.
Brose said the turnout for the March for Our Lives events is always lower than their bus trips to Washington D.C., which fill up quickly.
“When there are demonstrations on campus, people get busy and it’s hard for them to keep up, but I’m not disappointed with the turnout at all,” Brose said.
Lyden said they began the March For Our Lives protest by tabling on the STEPS lawn, where about 20-30 students gathered. A smaller group broke off and walked through the libraries and the Alumni Memorial Building before ending at the Lehigh Police station.
At the Alumni Memorial Building, Julie Wright, ‘26, said she asked a passerby if she wanted an orange wristband to support ending gun violence. The woman responded by telling her she was carrying a gun. Wright said she initially felt rejected more than threatened.
“But when I saw her walk into the admissions building, that was when it felt a little bit more serious because she implied that she had a gun,” Wright said.
Lyden said even though concealed carry is allowed in Pennsylvania, the state leaves it up to the discretion of colleges to decide whether they will allow it on their campus. Lehigh does not.
Wright said after this encounter, the group went to Lehigh Police and filed a police report with Jason Schiffer, chief of police and assistant vice president of campus safety.
While there, they spoke about measures Lehigh can take to keep campus safe, including posting signage that makes it clear concealed carry is not allowed on campus.
“We love having an open campus, and we love welcoming potential new students and new students,” Ochs said. “But those folks cannot come into our community and threaten it with gun violence.”