Students Organize LA ‘Die-In’ to Demand Gun Control

LOS ANGELES (CN) – In an effort to demand gun control from legislators, gun control advocates dropped to the ground outside Los Angeles City Hall at noon on Tuesday, representing victims of mass shootings, as part of National Die-In Day.

The local March for Our Lives group organized the protest, which coincided with die-in demonstrations across the country. June 12 is also the second anniversary of the deadly Pulse Nightclub shooting that killed 49 people at a gay bar and club in Orlando, Florida.

According to organizers, 700 more have fallen victim to mass shootings since that night. Starting at noon, the die-in lasted for 700 seconds – about 12 minutes – to honor those victims.

As the din of downtown buzzed around them, about 100 people spread out on the ground outside Los Angeles City Hall holding signs calling for gun reform laws or emblazoned with the names of those killed in mass shootings.

Gun violence cuts a wide swath across multiple communities, said high school students SJ Stephens and Caleb Quiroz-Hansen, who held hands while they lay on the ground.

Stephens said their Los Angeles County high school is considering arming guards to combat school shootings – such as the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida – earlier this year. But Stephens and Quiroz-Hansen would rather see gun reform laws.

“We are here showing not only our school that we don’t want that to happen, but also the nation that Latinos and queer people and trans people – we’re all working together to try and fight against gun violence,” said Stephens.

Speakers at the event included family members of those affected by gang violence, such as Deborah Nelson, whose daughter, Monique, was killed in 2010 when she was caught in the crossfire of a gang shootout. Her grandson survived because her daughter shielded him with her body.

Selma Morales, an undocumented immigrant and activist, said the gun control conversation should extend to include additional training for law enforcement to stop killing unarmed people of color.

“Don’t dismiss people of color in this conversation,” said Morales.

City Controller Ron Galperin, the first openly gay official to be elected to citywide office in Los Angeles, read the 49 names of the Pulse Nightclub shooting victims.

Organizers at Tuesday’s demonstration called out politicians who have received funding from the National Rifle Association and encouraged attendees to register or pre-register to vote ahead of this November’s general election.

Before speaking to the crowd, actress and gun rights advocate Alyssa Milano asked the high school organizers of the event to be recognized for their work.

“You guys are the future. This is what democracy looks like,” said Milano. “It doesn’t happen automatically. It demands our action and our participation.”

Organizer Eve Levenson, 18, said gun control demonstrations will not be going away anytime soon.

“This election cycle marks the first election cycle we were eligible to vote in,” said Levenson. “I have a message for all the elected officials who continue to prioritize donations from the NRA over the safety of their constituents. Come November be ready to pack your bags, because we are going to vote you out.”

Earlier this year, Los Angeles councilmember Mitch O’Farrell asked the city to cut ties with companies linked to the NRA.

And following the shooting in Parkland, Florida, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer formed a panel made up of law enforcement, community members, teacher union members and students to discuss gun violence in schools.

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