Macalester’s Students Demand Action (SDA) chapter participated in State Advocacy Day on Wednesday, March 13, at the Minnesota State Capitol. Joined by representatives from Moms Demand Action (MDA) and other Minnesota SDA chapters, the group spent the afternoon rallying for more stringent gun control laws and lobbying Minnesota politicians to join their movement.
The day of advocacy began with a rally led by several prominent gun control activists, gun violence survivors and local politicians. Erin Zamoff, a Moms Demand Action activist, spoke on gun violence statistics within Minnesota alone.
According to Zamoff, 165 Minnesotans died by firearm in 2017, and approximately one Minnesotan dies by firearm suicide every day.
“Firearms are the second leading cause of death for American children and teens and the leading cause of death for Black [American] children and teens,” Zamoff said.
The majority of Minnesotans support the gun control legislations SDA and MDA advocate for.
“Common sense gun laws are supported by, according to Star Tribune polls, more than 90 percent of Minnesotans,” State Rep. Dave Pinto (DFL) said.
However, the Minnesota GOP holds a majority in the State Senate and popular support is not enough to pass gun control legislation.
The contradiction between public opinion and political behavior frustrated many speakers at the rally.
“Do you mean to tell me that after all the work that has been done, the Senate is going to stand in the way of democracy?” First Lady of Minnesota Gwen Walz asked. “Unacceptable.”
Currently, there are two bills circulating in the Minnesota House of Representatives: HF8 and HF9. HF8 would require universal background checks for those seeking to purchase a firearm, and HF9 would pass red flag laws that would prevent people who may be a danger to themselves or others from buying a gun. The Public Safety Committee has already passed both, and now that the Minnesota House has a Democratic majority, it will likely pass the bills as well.
The GOP-majority Senate presents a far more significant challenge to the legislation.
Macalester SDA members met with State Senator Dick Cohen (DFL), who reaffirmed his support for gun safety and reiterated the problem within the Senate, as well as State Rep. Kaohly Her (DFL).
Representative Her stated that she would be “voting in favor of the bills within the House” and agreed to come to Macalester to discuss gun control policy and legislation in April of this year.
In spite of political challenges, Pinto asked students not to give up on the movement,
“Keep up the pressure, keep up the push, and as you do, you’ll be building a state that is safer for every single Minnesotan,” Pinto said. “That is our goal and that is what we need to do.”
For Macalester SDA leader Joe McMurtrey ’22, the experience was inspiring.
“Seeing the work that students put in to organize and attend these events during the week of midterms is heartwarming, and the message they spoke is soul-stirring,” he said.