On March 24, approximately 15,000 people marched through the streets of downtown Phoenix in support of gun control and as part of a larger national movement called March For Our Lives.
March For Our Lives was founded by teenage survivors of the February Parkland, Florida school shooting that killed 17 people. Hundreds of companion marches took place across the country and the world, including Phoenix. Among the crowd of March For Our Lives Phoenix were members of the ASU Young Democrats.
Jesse Avalos, a political science junior and president of the club, said that he came to the march because he cannot just stand by while members of the legislature do nothing.
“It’s time to make a change within our system," Avalos said.
Avalos said the march represents that youth will no longer accept the “status quo” of mass shootings, and that they will be the ones to create change if necessary.
“We are active citizens, and our age is not a deficit to us having a voice in this democracy,” Avalos said.
Tayelee Holtrop, a justice studies and political science freshman, said she joined the march because she believes “silence is acquiescence.”
Holtrop said she fears that she or her sister could be next.
Ryan Cloughley, a political science senior, said that he was at the march to stand in solidarity with those affected by the shootings and especially for his mom, who has been working in the public education system for 30 years.
"Every day there’s a fear that a gunman might walk into the school and might take her life and, more worse off, take the life of her students," Cloughley said.
Avalos, like other gun control advocates, said both political parties should unite to save lives. The issue, he said, is money from outside lobbying groups.
“A lot of members from Congress are receiving big donations from the (National Rifle Association) and from special interests groups,” Avalos said. “We should be making change now and not thinking about the future of somebody’s career.”
But not all young people are on board with the pro-gun reform movement.
Judah Waxelbaum, a political science freshman and member of the ASU College Republicans, said that despite the shootings, the U.S. does not have a gun violence problem but instead has problems with mental health and officials not doing their jobs.
"I don’t think there’s any legislation that is not already in the books that could’ve prevented a tragedy like this," Waxelbaum said.
He said that he does not fear a school shooting on the ASU campus because school shootings are a “statistical anomaly” considering the large population.
Either way, the March For Our Lives rally is an unprecedented moment for youth political action, said Jesse Chanley, a lecturer in the school of politics and global studies, in an email.
"(I) cannot remember seeing this dramatic an increase in youth activism" ever before, he wrote. "Teenagers have been politically active in the civil rights movement, environmental movement and anti-war activism. However, again, I don’t recall teenagers taking such a dramatic lead in previous movements."