Photo courtesy of Abby Brafman / Facebook
Story by Daniel Shaw-Remeta / Contributing Writer
After a number of mass shootings throughout the nation and the recent school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people, there has been extreme concern among Americans in regards to ending the country’s epidemic of gun violence. In order to draw attention to this nationwide issue, students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School planned a march for Saturday, March 24, in Washington, D.C. Students, teachers and American families will protest in the hopes that lawmakers will implement stricter gun laws and to raise awareness about mass violence, particularly in schools. In parallel, a protest called “March For Our Lives Nashville” is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. the same day at Nashville’s Public Square Park downtown.
Abby Brafman, a freshman at Vanderbilt University and a 2017 graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, prompted efforts for Nashville’s march. After receiving a call from a friend the day of the shooting and prior to returning home to support her grieving town that weekend, Brafman created a Facebook event page for March For Our Lives Nashville. Within only a couple of days nearly 4,000 people responded. Her idea transformed into a youth-led civic movement when a network of around 70 other Vanderbilt students wanted to become involved and spread word of the march.
“I’ve been so sad for the past few days, but now whenever I think of my town, all I can do is smile,” Brafman said in an interview with The Tennessean in February. “Now that this has happened, the true force of Parkland is showing its face to the world.”
Brafman and fellow march organizers Sabina Smith and Puja Jagasia met with the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee to establish the March For Our Lives Nashville Fund, which allows any donations to the march to be tax deductible.
“We got involved because those three students came to see us,” said Pat Embry, the director of media and community relations for the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. “They had started a GoFundMe account, which is great, but unfortunately none of this (money) was tax deductible. If the money is administered through a fund at a community foundation such as ours, they are tax deductible, and we handle all the paperwork and all that stuff.”
He further explained how all of the planning and logistics for the march had been executed by Vanderbilt students and concerned activists, and the Community Foundation’s primary role has been to make the process of raising money easier and more beneficial.
“One of our mottos is, ‘Connecting generosity with need,’ and this is a great example of that,” he said.
The Community Foundation promotes and facilitates giving in the 40 counties of Middle Tennessee by accepting gifts for charitable causes and empowering individuals, families, companies and nonprofits to respond to community needs.
Vanderbilt students involved in the promotion of the March For Our Lives Nashville event are determined to make it an effort to end, or at least reduce, mass gun violence and mass shootings in schools.
“The United States is a country that, compared to any other industrialized country in the world, is so disproportionately largely affected by gun violence,” said Henry Goldberg, a Vanderbilt sophomore and March For Our Lives organizer. “The one thing that every single person in our country can agree on is that we need to protect our children.”
According to a Politico and Morning Consult poll that was taken after the Parkland shooting, 88 percent of Americans support universal background checks for those who wish to purchase a firearm, and 82 percent support raising the minimum age to purchase a semi-automatic rifle to 21. According to the same poll, 68 percent of Americans supported banning assault-style weapons altogether. Grace Allaman, another organizer for the march in Nashville and a Vanderbilt freshman, explained that she believes these statistics indicate a need for a change in national policies regarding firearms.
“I think a lot of these measures are common sense,” she said. “A lot of them exist in other countries that have significantly lower rates of gun violence, and I think it’s something people can agree on no matter what side of the aisle they’re on.”
As more people continue to learn about the March For Our Lives movement, other cities have begun organizing their own marches. According to events being created on Facebook, there are marches planned for Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Las Vegas, Springfield, Missouri, San Francisco, Dallas, New York City and more, including as far as Liverpool, England.
“I think something a lot of us want to see out of the march is people coming together and uniting people behind this cause,” Allaman said. “I think there are a lot of people who feel outraged by the continual inaction after these mass shootings and don’t want to see another one. We want this to be not just a singular moment in time but a movement that will continue into the future.”
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