Students discuss gun violence at University panel

Rep. Ilhan Omar’s student group organized the event to share ideas about gun reform at state and national levels.

Students met for a Pizza & Policy event at Mondale Hall Thursday, April 26 to discuss gun violence.

Max Ostenso

Students met for a Pizza & Policy event at Mondale Hall Thursday, April 26 to discuss gun violence.

by Kassidy Tarala

While Minnesota lawmakers staged a 24-hour sit-in at the State Capitol to protest gun policy inaction, University student group Students for Ilhan Omar hosted their own event to provide students a platform to share their ideas on gun violence.

The Pizza & Policy event at Mondale Hall Thursday night featured a panel of students from the University of Minnesota and Macalester College as well as Chanhassen, Eden Prairie and Wayzata high schools.

Austin Berger, a University freshman, is involved in the March for Our Lives Minnesota chapter, a student-led movement which helped organize a rally for gun control in March.

Berger said gun violence is a cultural problem rooted in the actions of politicians.

“Government officials are, for a lack of a better word, being bought by the NRA,” he said.

Sami Rahamim, a University senior, said the NRA needs to strengthen its rules on background checks and gun ownership. For example, background checks can currently be bypassed through online sales, he said. 

“People who already own them could be ‘grandfathered’ in, but there should be background checks and licenses required of new gun owners,” he said.

Rahamim lost his father to gun violence in 2012.

“I’ve been living a nightmare ever since,” he said. 

Wayzata High School junior Aashna Sheth got involved in March for Our Lives following the Parkland shooting and led several walkouts around local high schools.

“The presence of guns makes everyone tense. No one can learn in that kind of environment,” Sheth said.

Sheth said arming teachers as a method of combating school shootings wouldn’t solve the problem, and instead make students fearful of their own teachers.

Sydney Lewis, an Eden Prairie High School sophomore, said she’s afraid that people are blaming gun violence on mental health rather than treating them as their own issues.

“There’s a difference between mental health and mental illness. Someone who has anxiety or depression shouldn’t be treated like they’re at risk of shooting up a school,” Lewis said.

Chanhassen High School junior Braden Johnson said mental health should be prioritized over gun violence.

“We need to focus on mental health and treat it for what it is. There are millions of people who go undiagnosed for mental illnesses,” he said. “It’s time to fix that problem and stop scapegoating it as something that’s tied inherently to gun violence.”

Johnson said the movement needs to focus on everyone affected by gun violence, including victims of police brutality.

“There’s more diversity in this movement than what has been shown in media,” he said.

But Johnson said his ultimate goal for March for Our Lives is to reduce the number of guns available in the country.

“We see it in our country, and we see it in the world; more weapons is equivalent to more violence,” he said