By Marissa Camacho, Kelsey Dux, Meghan Hall and Robert Snekser
We recently had the opportunity to join with New Yorkers Against Gun Violence as it engaged in its annual lobby day for gun safety legislation in our state capital. We left Buffalo in the early morning hours and arrived in Albany with a full schedule of meetings with our local delegation of state legislators. We went not only as individuals, but as representatives of the vast majority of high school students across the state concerned for our safety at home, at school and in the community. We were joined by other students representing a varied cross section of America from all regions of the state.
Initially, we should point out that our determination to do something about gun violence in our communities was spawned, in great part, by the tragic high school shooting in Parkland, Fla. It opened our eyes to the epidemic of gun violence in America.
We know that mass shootings capture the headlines, but we realize that the great majority of gun violence occurs as a result of suicides, accidental shootings and easy access to guns by those who shouldn’t have access. We want to be part of the change this country needs.
We met with lawmakers in both houses of the Legislature, from both sides of the aisle. We found, contrary to common misperception, men and women of honor and integrity, doing their best to represent the goals and ideals of their constituents. We found thoughtful lawmakers, not partisan hacks that so many paint them to be. The legislators we met took the time to sit with us and listen to our concerns and engage in serious, deliberative dialogue. We participated in thoughtful, insightful and fruitful discussion. We appreciated their time, their concern and their serious deliberation.
We want to thank state Sens. Timothy Kennedy and Chris Jacobs, as well as Assemblymembers Crystal Peoples-Stokes, Sean Ryan and Monica Wallace for taking the time to meet with us and to discuss our concerns. We also want to thank Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer and Assemblyman David DiPietro, who set aside time for us; however our scheduling conflicts prevented us from meeting with them. We wish we had time to meet with them and more of our representatives, but we are now planning to follow up with visits to their district offices.
We want to thank New Yorkers Against Gun Violence and Stop the Violence Coalition for providing us this opportunity and taking the time to travel with us to meet our legislators and for their commitment and dedication to the same goals we seek, safer homes, schools and communities.
This was truly an experience that we will remember and which we hope will, in some small way, lead to positive change for our futures. We don’t know if our meetings will have had any lasting effect on the legislators, but we do know that they have had a great and positive effect on each of us. #NeverAgain!
Marissa Camacho attends Williamsville South High School. This piece was also co-written by Kelsey Dux of Amherst High School, Meghan Hall of Williamsville South High School and Robert Snekser of Kenmore East High School.