As the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Nov. 7 for a case that would decide whether federal law could disarm people with domestic violence orders against them, a group of over 50 activists, including 14 Georgetown students, rallied outside to remind the justices that the public is watching.
“We refuse to let nine unelected judges decide whether people trapped in abusive situations will live or die,” executive director of grassroots organization Moms Demand Action Angela Ferrell-Zabala said in an impassioned opening speech to the crowd.
The rally was organized by a coalition of gun and domestic violence prevention groups, including March for Our Lives (MFOL), Everytown for Gun Safety, and the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV). It featured a series of speakers ranging from activist group leaders like Ferrell-Zabala to federal lawmakers including Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), as well as gun violence experts and community leaders.
Georgetown students boarded an 8 a.m. Georgetown University Transportation Shuttle carrying handmade signs to join the national organizations in calling on the Supreme Court to defend the constitutionality of blocking those with domestic violence orders against them from possessing firearms. The effort was coordinated by the university’s MFOL and Students Demand Action chapters as well as Georgetown University College Democrats and H*yas for Choice.
“We want those involved in the case to see that there are people who are watching them, there are people who care, and that their actions have consequences,” a chapter lead for MFOL Georgetown, Ari Kane (CAS ’24), said. “By mobilizing this grassroots youth-led movement, it’s how we do that, how we send that message.”
Caroline McDonald (CAS ’24), a fellow MFOL Georgetown chapter lead, added that the rally is important in showing survivors that there is a continuous community of support for them.
“Having as many people show up to learn more about the case and showing up [Tuesday] morning to go attend the rally meant a lot to me to see people really be there for their peers at Georgetown and people around the country who will be affected by this decision,” McDonald said.
The student groups sponsored a teach-in and poster-making session the night before the rally. At the gathering, Kane and McDonald joined Students Demand Action Georgetown leaders Emma Vonder Haar (CAS ’26), Madison Chang (CAS ’26), and H*yas for Choice co-presidents Soraya Bata (SFS ’24) and Serena Barish (CAS ’25) in giving a crash course on the case: United States v. Rahimi.
The case comes after a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled a law that restricts people with domestic violence orders against them from possessing firearms as unconstitutional. The appeals court decision was a result of the Supreme Court’s ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, that reset the judicial standards used to rule on gun control.
At the rally, speakers detailed personal anecdotes and statistics that emphasized how a decision that overturned the law could be deadly for domestic violence survivors. This is specially true for women of color, who disproportionately face domestic abuse situations, according to the speakers.
“Please understand that lives are in your hands. Please understand you cannot reverse this law. Please understand people will die if you make the wrong decision,” Dingell said in a plea to the court during her speech.
Student organizers said their presence served a purpose beyond activism: community building across and within student groups. “These sorts of actions have sort of a dual purpose, where we’re sending a message to the Supreme Court. But we’re also getting people involved in our movement,” Kane said.
Joanna Forbes (CAS ’27) said that in addition to the sense of urgency she felt to protest the cause, the rally and teach-in gave her a new sense of community at Georgetown. She had traveled to D.C. for the 2017 MFOL protest and didn’t know that Georgetown had a MFOL chapter until its teach-in the evening before the rally.
“It’s the first time I really felt like home since I’ve been here,” she said about the teach-in.
McDonald noted the importance of sustaining an activist movement throughout the long fight against gun violence ahead, specifically as decisions like the Bruen ruling threaten the safety of domestic violence survivors.
“I think it just shows we have to be committed to the fight in the courts for the long run. That’s why I’m so encouraged that a lot of younger students were [at the rally] because once we all graduate the fight needs to continue,” she said.