Addressing gun violence: First Monday 2000

Kelly Pearson

The University was just one of hundreds of college campuses across the nation to host the First Monday 2000 campaign to reduce gun violence.
Coordinated by the Alliance for Justice and Physicians for Social Responsibility, “First Monday 2000: Unite to End Gun Violence” focused on the nearly 30,000 people killed each year as a result of gun violence in the country.
Students, faculty and community leaders attended a debate at the University’s Law School on Monday between Howard Orenstein, Board of Citizens for a Safer Minnesota president, and David Feinwachs, School of Public Health assistant professor.
Orenstein quoted child accidental deaths and suicide statistics in support of gun control, while Feinwachs argued “The issue is that the wrong people have access to firearms.” He said the only way to eliminate gun problems is to eliminate guns.
After hearing each side during the 30-minute debate, the floor was opened for questions and discussion.
The goal of the national program is to take a significant issue the country is dealing with and bring people together to talk about the problem and possible solutions, said Stephen Simon, University clinical professor and head of this year’s informational activities.
Each year, First Monday highlights a different justice issue. This year, the campaign sought to inspire and mobilize a new generation of advocates to further the cause of justice.
“Supreme Court justices are doing something important today, but probably not as important as what we are going to talk about today,” said Director of Career Services Susan Ganin, referring to Monday as the opening day of the Supreme Court term.
First Monday 2000 events around the country included debates and rallies, as well as information sessions.
Every event at the more than 300 participating colleges and universities featured the premiere of a new documentary, “America: Up in Arms.” This documentary highlights the effects of gun violence in America, as well as examples of activism by citizens.
“Some people are skeptical whether or not we can have an effect on gun violence,” said Orenstein. “I am not one of those skeptics. Any solution to gun violence issues includes changing people’s hearts and heads, as well as the law.”
Of the 30,000 people killed each year from gun violence, 3,792 firearm-related deaths in 1998 involved people age 20 or under. In Minnesota 346 people were killed by gun violence in 1997, according to the First Monday Web site.
First Monday’s goal is to educate and inform students around the nation of these consequences and what they can do to stop the problem.
“Oct. 2 will be an unprecedented day of action to stop gun violence in this country,” said program supporter Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron earlier this month.
“We are going to put a human face on the tragedy of gun violence and remind Americans that, without responsible gun laws, every one of us is at risk,” Aron said. “We intend to launch a mobilization so massive that politicians simply can’t ignore it.”

Kelly Pearson welcomes comments at [email protected]