Last Friday, April 20, student organizations Carleton Democrats (CarlDems), the Democratic Students of America (DSA) and Mental Health Awareness Collective (MHAC) held the Carls Against Gun Violence Rally on the steps of Sayles-Hill during the convocation hour. The rally was attended by a crowd of over 60 members of the Carleton and greater Northfield communities.
Carrie Kisicki ’21, a member of CarlDems and MHAC, was the lead organizer of the event. Kisicki said she was moved to plan a protest at Carleton after she attended one of the national March For Our Lives demonstrations in Chicago. She chose the date to commemorate the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting and to line up with the National School Walkout. Kisicki said that the rally’s main intent was to bring awareness to less-discussed phenomena around the issue of gun violence in America. “One of the main goals of the rally was to talk about all forms of gun violence,” said Kisicki. “Even though mass shootings get a lot of attention, there’s a lot of gun deaths and gun violence in the country that has nothing to do with mass shootings.”
Friday’s rally included discussion of greater consciousness of mental health and racial disparities in cases of gun violence, rather than focusing on mass shootings. Speakers referenced St. Paul Black Lives Matter activists who had been unable to come to the rally and expressed concern that police shootings are often overlooked as another form of state-sponsored gun violence.
Invited speaker Austin Berger, University of Minnesota first- year student and St. Paul March for Our Lives organizer, spoke to this, asserting that “it is unjust that black men constitute 14% of the American population but more than half of gun violence killings.”
Additionally, the event centered around the role of mental health within the gun violence debate. “Two-thirds of all gun deaths in the US are suicide, it’s about 20,000 a year and about 50 a day. It’s something that tends to not be on the news as much, and that’s a big part of why we’re doing it,” Kisicki stated, in concordance with speakers Ross Matican ’20, co-president of MHAC, local Everytown for Gun Safety activists, Director of American Studies Serena Zabin, and Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party congressional candidate Angie Craig (MN-2).
Craig spoke about the prominence of gun violence in underrepresented communities as she discussed the disproportionate rate of LGBTQIA+ gun violence as a result of suicide. She called for the elimination of military-style weapons in the United States and spoke about her own Congressional platform for gun violence prevention. “I’m here to encourage the young people in this country—you lead and I’ve got your back!” Craig said, reminding the crowd of the upcoming midterm elections 200 days from the rally.
Moving forward, Kisicki is currently in the process of starting a Carleton branch of Students Demand Action, a national anti- gun violence political group aiming to end gun violence which partners with similar organizations like Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action. Kisicki is also working with Berger to create a statewide chapter of the same organization for college students.
Further, Grant Ackerman ’19, current president of CarlDems, added that “students here in the 2nd Congressional District, the third closest congressional race in the country last cycle, are in a great position to help elect Angie Craig, a strong Democrat who supports gun violence prevention measures.” Carleton students circulated the crowd with clipboards to sign students up for electronic election reminders and voter registration tabling efforts in Sayles.
To close the rally, Carleton students Kessa Andrews ’19 and Jack Coyne ’20 shared stories of the effects of gun violence in their own communities. Through the personal testimonies of students and the sharing of community activists’ voices, rally organizers pushed to increase the activism of Carls and broaden perspectives on the wide-ranging issue of gun violence in the United States.