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Alanna Miller and two other Students Demand Action volunteers pose for a photo in front of a step and repeat background at the Gun Sense Forum
Volunteer Stories

Alanna Miller: Why I Joined Students Demand Action

Photo: 2019 Iowa Gun Forum Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. (photo by Jack Dempsey)

The day after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February of 2018, I was walking up the stairs to get to my physics class when I overheard a conversation behind me.  

“Did you hear they caught the shooter this time?”

“Yeah, I did. I could do a better job though. I wouldn’t get caught.”

Those words stopped me in my tracks. In that moment, all I felt was fear. This distant feeling that school can be a place of danger wasn’t new. I was born in 2000—one year after the Columbine shooting—and I grew up with tragedies like the shootings at Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Pulse, and Las Vegas in the headlines. Each of these instances taught me that some politicians cared more about catering to the gun lobby than they did protecting their nation’s people from senseless violence.

Fast forward a few days: I was scrolling through social media with a friend in between rounds at a debate tournament in Boston when I first read about the walkouts for gun safety that students across the country were organizing. The freezing cold must have had some effect on us because we immediately knew we wanted to organize our own walkout back home. But I have to admit, as soon as I was back in Texas, I was terrified. I had never really spoken publicly about an issue of importance to me, and talking about guns in my gun-friendly hometown wasn’t something people did. (For context, former NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch lives right by my high school.) Nonetheless, I forged ahead knowing that even if I was unsure of myself now, future me would look back and know I was on the right side of history.

Our walkout was a huge success. Hundreds of students participated, and I learned that gun violence prevention is an issue that galvanizes young people. Afterwards, I started one of the first Students Demand Action groups in an attempt to channel the momentum from the walkout into something sustainable. Being a Students Demand Action group leader has been an incredible adventure in both education and action.

Since I joined the movement, I’ve learned that gun violence is not just the mass shootings that had initially prompted my involvement.

Gun violence is rural suicides. It’s city gun violence and intimate partner violence and unintentional shootings. It’s also hate crimes and police violence. Gun violence is so prevalent that 58% of adults in America or someone they care for have experienced gun violence. That’s almost six in 10. 

As a Students Demand Action volunteer, I’ve discussed these intersections with school administrators, lawmakers, community organizers, potential voters, peers, professors, and more.  There are so many stakeholders in the fight to end gun violence, but one of the most crucial additions to this movement is us. Social movements have historically been led by young people, and this one is no different. It’s important to remember that our legislators work for us, not the gun lobby. And if there’s anything they fear more than the NRA, it’s our power to elect their replacements.

How You Can Take Action Now

Right now, we’re organizing with our peers to build virtual field offices in every state and taking part in daily actions to register voters through our Summer of Action campaign because we know 2020 is a pivotal election year for gun safety.

To join us in the fight for a safer future text Students to 644-33

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Join Alanna and other young activists committed to ending gun violence in our communities.

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