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Humanities Lab arms students with tools to prevent gun violence

This year's Humanities Week hosted an event with the theme of gun violence and school shooting prevention

Panelists at the Arming Students for Good: Youth Activism to Prevent Violence Humanities Lab Event at Rob & Melani Walton Center For Planetary Health on Monday, Oct. 16, 2023, in Tempe.

To promote the education and involvement of youth voices against gun violence, guest speakers lead a discussion panel through the ASU Humanities Lab after an afternoon of hands-on exhibits. 

The third annual Humanities Week, held Oct. 16 to 20, has the goal to celebrate culture and history, and allow spaces for students to explore current topics affecting their communities. "Arming Students for Good: Youth Activism to Prevent Violence" on Monday was one of several events hosted throughout the week.

In 2020, deaths from firearm-related injuries surpassed motor vehicle crashes and "became the leading cause of death among people ages one to 19 years in the United States," according to the National Institute of Health.

Humanities Week was created by The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. This event featured students’ research from the Narrative of School Shootings course.

"We think the humanities are a tool that you can use to learn from as you are working to address challenges of this nature. There are just so many places you can pull from to understand where people are coming from and to get a deeper understanding," said Maureen Kobierowski, communications manager of the Humanities Lab.

The free event attracted students and professors of all backgrounds to the exhibits as they awaited the evening guest speakers, including Tom Leveen, Quiana Lewis Wallace, Eman Massoud and Michael Franklin.

Prior to the start of the guest lecture, attendees observed interactive activities and exhibitions including an art installation and a display of spoken word poems about violence prevention.

"Humanities can have a huge effect on the human race and ripples out with stories, poems, books and movies," said James Blasingame, professor of the special topics course Narrative of School Shootings. "Each one of the displays is some way of communicating what is going on with school shootings in the world."

Another one of the activities was focused on current legislation working to prevent gun violence and resources for how students can get involved such as registering to vote. 

Allison Miller, a sophomore studying psychology, was one of the researchers for the booth.

"We’re registering people to vote because that's the number one way to create change with gun policy," Miller said. She said the experience has inspired her to take action in her own life. 

Blake Lucas, a junior studying creative writing, said people are starting to seek preventative actions because of "a change in people’s perspectives of what school shootings and shooters are like and (they) see it not just as one-time tragedies being repeated over and over."

The panel of experts discussed their personal experiences with gun violence prevention and what they considered steps toward meaningful action.

"As a parent thinking: 'Is today the day?' that's not an okay way to live, for me, for my family, for anyone," said Leveen, a young adult author. "If a child is old enough to go through a lockdown, walk through metal detectors and have clear backpacks, then they are old enough to learn about it."

All of the panelists also touched on the topic of involving students in policy decisions. 

"Young people are the experts of their experiences," said Lewis Wallace, a public health researcher with expertise in youth leadership. 

Edited by Grey Gartin, Jasmine Kabiri and Grace Copperthite.

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