Students from Michael Andrews’ and Thu-Hang Tran-Peou’s seventh grade humanities class at the Josiah Quincy Upper School lobbied for the passage of a gun control bill at the Massachusetts Statehouse on Dec. 8. With guidance from the Generation Citizen action civics program, students advocated for tighter arms laws by demonstrating their support for Senate Bill No. 1298, speaking before staff members of senate offices.
“I felt that experiential learning is how you show how government works,” Andrews said. “To see what lobbying is, kids looked up all 39 senators and wrote and called every one. They put together an online petition to get signatures and designed fliers and info graphics, and they have been canvassing in their neighborhoods.”
The class members presented their research on the bill to representatives from the offices of senators Cynthia Creem, Linda Dorcena Forry, and Michael Moore, among others. Students said that the legislation will make the state a safer place.
“The bill is really important to prevent gun violence and trafficking,” student Mickey Yang said. “I have never experienced gun violence, but life is important, and these are innocent lives. They might be strangers, but they are humans.”
Bill S. 1298, sponsored by Creem, will strengthen gun control laws by placing a tax of 4.75 percent on gun storage and gun parts, with the proceeds going to the Firearms Prevention Trust Fund, which will address youth exposure to violence and train police to handle issues involving people with mental illness. The bill will also demand that purchasers of firearms electronically verify their identities at the location of a licensed dealer.
Massachusetts has the fourth tightest gun control laws in the country, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, but there are still gaps in the system, Andrews said. On Dec. 6, the House passed the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, a bill that would allow citizens to purchase guns in states with looser laws and transport those weapons to parts of the country with stricter regulations, thereby overriding existing rules set by individual states.
In this current political climate, the views of young people are more important than ever, said Ellie Sanchez, Generation Citizen’s program manager for Massachusetts.
“I was very proud of the students,” Andrews said. “They really showed their knowledge but also their compassion. I was impressed by their display of what they knew but also by their empathy and willingness to talk to authority figures – their voices matter. They showed that they are ready to lead.”
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