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Student activists call for universal background checks on all gun purchases

Student activists call for universal background checks on all gun purchases

Las Vegas. Orlando. Newtown. Sutherland Springs. Parkland.
These mass shootings that saw a total of 176 people killed were fresh on the minds of the several thousand people who crowded into the Indiana Statehouse last year to advocate for action to reduce gun violence.
They were still talking points on Saturday, when about 100 people gathered near the west steps of the Indiana Statehouse in the 30-degree temperatures and gusting winds, but there was a new addition to the list of shootings that have resonated with them.
Tragedy hit home on May 25, 2018, when a boy opened fire in a Noblesville West Middle School classroom, shooting two people. Then-seventh grader Ella Whistler was shot seven times, and teacher Jason Seaman was shot three times. Both survived.
IndyStar is not naming the boy because he was not tried as an adult.
Parents of Ella Whistler sue parents of Noblesville school shooter
Nolan Weaver was in a different Noblesville classroom when the shots rang out. So was Cameron Riley. It’s a day they’ll never forget.
Weaver and Riley were two of the at least 10 student speakers who took the microphone Saturday. Each speaker told a unique story about how gun violence has impacted them.
Isabella Fallahi, a Carmel High School student, said she has a friend who survived the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. Destiny Hatcher, a Warren Central High School student, said she lost a family member to a shooting. Brandon Randall, program director at VOICES Corp., an Indianapolis organization that advocates for vulnerable youth and families, said he’s lost multiple youth during his time at the organization.
Every story was different, but every speaker shared one message: pass legislation they believe will reduce gun violence.
“We’re tired of being told we’re too young to understand how the government works,” Weaver said.
The consensus of those at the rally was clear: As of today, the state and federal governments have not done enough to reduce gun violence in the wake of mass shootings across the nation and growing homicide numbers in Indianapolis.
One solution, activists said, lies in the hands of the U.S. Senate. H.R. 8 would require a background check for every firearm sale. It passed the Democratic-led House of Representatives by a 240-190 vote. Two Democrats voted against it, while eight Republicans voted in favor of it.
“What this bill would do is simply prevent those with hate, those who are domestic abusers and more from obtaining access to a weapon that can kill not only masses of people, but just one person,” Fallahi said.
Ed Smith, the president of Hoosiers Concerned About Gun Violence, encouraged listeners to reach out to Indiana senators Mike Braun and Todd Young and ask them to support H.R. 8.
“We need our representatives to value more than reelection funds and support from the NRA,” said Zoe Koniaris, a student at Carmel High School.
Indianapolis has broken a new criminal homicide record four years in a row. In 2018, the city saw 159 criminal homicides, according to IndyStar data.
These six graphics help explain Indianapolis’ homicide problem
Mass shootings captivate the national news, but those who rallied Saturday had not forgotten about the Hoosiers who have died by gun violence.
“When you put on social media that you were at the March for Our Lives, I need you to understand who those lives are,” Randall told the crowd.
On Friday, one man was killed and another was injured in a shooting at a northeast-side shopping center. Three days earlier, a 26-year-old man was shot and killed on the east side. A Muslim man was shot and killed Feb. 16 in a west-side road rage incident that the victim’s sister believes is a hate crime.
Fallahi and the other speakers Saturday said something needs to change.
“Enough is enough,” Fallahi said. “Sen. Todd Young, don’t fail us again with H.R. 8. Mike Braun, prove yourself.”