Pitt County Students Call For Stricter Gun Laws At Vigil For Santa Fe Victims

May 23, 2018

More than a dozen high school students in Pitt County led a candlelight vigil yesterday in honor of the victims killed in the Santa Fe, Texas High School shooting.

Roughly 40 community members attended the vigil, which took place at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Greenville.  At an interfaith clergy meeting before the vigil, students spoke about the need for stricter gun laws to improve school safety.

Members of the Pitt County Youth for Justice and Change, a group of high school students that formed less than a month ago soon after they participated in a local March for Our Lives rally, led a candlelight vigil in honor of the Santa Fe High School shooting victims at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Greenville on Tuesday, May 22, 2018.
Credit Valerie Crowder

“It’s the guns, and it’s the people who have the guns, and it’s the gun laws,” said Jessica Gross, a senior at J.H. Rose High School.   

While she doesn’t think a shooting would happen at her school, the fear of that possibility lingers the back of her mind, and sometimes at school she’s reminded of it, Gross said.  

“We’ve gone on two to three lockdowns because of threats about shootings this year through social media,” Gross said. “We’re next to neighborhoods where there’s shootings all the time, so there are definitely fears.”

Like the other students at the vigil, Gross says she wants to see stronger background checks, along with a ban on semi-automatic weapons and bump stocks.

“Anything from the military that can kill that many people should not be in our schools – should not have access to our schools,” she said.

The NC House Select Committee on School Safety has released more than a dozen recommendations, including allocating $1.8 million to pay for more school resource officers, setting up an anonymous tip line and gradually increasing the number of school nurses and psychologists.

State Sen. Don Davis (D-Greenville) shared the committee’s plan with students before the vigil. He says he’s optimistic that there’s bipartisan support in the General Assembly for school safety legislation.

“There are efforts taking place. I would like to believe that these efforts will allow us to be safer,” Davis said. “I don’t know that we can ever be 100 percent guarded against some of these horrendous activities that we’ve seen take place across the nation. But we have to do everything within our will to try to address this.”  

The House committee’s recommendations focus on school security and mental health – none address gun safety.  When asked, Davis wouldn’t say whether or not gun control measures should be part of a plan to address school safety. However, he says he’s willing to consider those types of proposals in the future.

“When we talk background checks and so forth, there’s been some level support out there. I would be open to exploring some different scenarios,” Davis said.

Democratic candidate for NC House Dist. 9 Kristopher Rixon attended last night’s vigil. He says state lawmakers’ recommendations are a good first start, but gun control measures should be included in any plan to prevent school shootings.

“We need to have a 14-day waiting period for gun sales. We need to strengthen background checks,” Rixon said. “We need to ensure that domestic abusers don’t have access to firearms because there is a significant link between domestic abuse and gun violence.”

Like many at the vigil, he's against banning all guns or abolishing the Second Amendement, Rixon said. 

"I do support the Second Amendment," Rixon said.  "At the same time, you have to look at when that was written compared to now and the measures we can take now to make sure that the Second Amendment is as strong as possible, but also as responsible as possible."