A little over a month ago, my friend, Katherine Morris, and I created a petition to Congressman Leonard Lance requesting that he support future legislation regarding stricter gun regulations (the banning of semi-automatic weapons, bumpstocks and silencers; enforcement of stricter universal background checks; enacting red flag laws, etc.). We received an overwhelming amount of support from the students at our school, Watchung Hills Regional High School. We obtained over 1,500 signatures from students in the span of just 3 days! We had the unique opportunity to hand-deliver the petition to Congressman Lance when he came to visit our school. From this experience, I was able to see the amount of frustration and passion our student body had towards the issue of guns in America.
I wanted to harness the momentum we had generated in our school from the petition by creating a Facebook Group, for both students and adults of our Congressional District, where we could further discuss events and plans centered around ensuring the safety of our community and ending gun violence. This was why we started our group @ We Rise NJ: End Gun Violence Now. Our group is a place where residents of all ages can actively engage in dialogue about the issue of firearm violence and current gun control legislation. I am very proud to say that we have over 500 members in We Rise already. We would like to emphasize that this group is political, but is not affiliated with any political party. The issue of gun violence is not a partisan issue. It is a people issue, and I hope that more people will begin to recognize this.
Through this platform, we have been able to organize events like the WHRHS Walkout and the Rally for Our Lives in Somerset County. We plan on conducting a Voter Registration Drive in our school and also hosting a town hall meeting with Leonard Lance. Our primary, and loftiest, goal is to get proper gun control passed in Congress. On a more local level, we are working arduously to pressure Congressman Lance into supporting future, effective gun control legislation. With his 93% approval rating by the National Rifle Association in 2016, we need to show him that we no longer accept his thoughts and prayers as his visceral response to gun violence. We need more than thoughts and prayers. We need action. Through We Rise, we want to combat the issue of political apathy, especially within my generation, and provide individuals with opportunities to fulfill their civic duty through grassroots lobbying.
For our next project, I recently put up the petition that Katherine and I created online on change.org (https://www.change.org/p/leonard-lance-demand-stronger-action-against-gun-violence). We are hoping to gain 1,000 signatures from adults and students on our online petition by April 20th, the anniversary of Columbine. We are currently trying to figure out how we should deliver the petition to him.
There are many ways you can join us in this important cause. For starters, you can join our facebook group, sign our petition, register to vote (if you haven't already), and attend our town hall. Together, we will hold our elected officials accountable.
Caitlyn is a senior at Watchung Hills Regional High School