Students Demand Action holds vigil for National Gun Violence Survivors Week

January 30, 2024

Around a dozen students gathered for a vigil in Red Square on Wednesday, Jan. 24, in remembrance of the victims and survivors of gun violence. The event was led by Georgetown Students Demand Action’s (SDA) in honor of the sixth annual National Gun Violence Survivors Week (Jan. 22-26).  

“As over 120 Americans are shot and killed each day (38,000 in a year) it would take almost eleven hours to say all of their names. So, we will be taking time to honor their lives collectively, and read select stories, making sure to also focus on who these people were in life,” Emma Vonder Haar (CAS ’26), Georgetown SDA’s co-president, said in her opening statement. 

Participants held candles, wore orange ribbons (the color of gun violence prevention), and repeated the names of victims and survivors. 

“I was really glad to see a good turnout. I think it’s just really important to center survivors around all the work that we do, especially taking time to really just reflect on these stories,”  co-president Madison Cheng (CAS ’26) said.

Testimonies shared were chosen from Everytown’s Moments That Survive, a public archive that amplifies the voices of those who have been impacted by gun violence. 

“There are stories on there of people that have died by gun violence or that survived,” Alex Goodale (CAS ‘26), Georgetown SDA’s advocacy director, said. “It’s really powerful to go through, and there are hundreds of stories that people post on there.”

Anecdotes, mostly about victims from the DMV area, were read aloud by the organizers. Participants also had the opportunity to share the names of loved ones impacted by gun violence before holding a collective moment of silence.

“The point of this was more to hold a space, not just raising awareness, but holding a space for, as a community, people to come together,” Goodale said.

Co-founders Vonder Haar and Cheng had previously been involved with local chapters of the national organization in high school, and are finding more activism possibilities on Georgetown’s campus and throughout the capital. 

“I think there’s a lot more opportunities once we get to college in terms of being able to be in D.C. and go to a lot of different federal events and events that are happening in the city, but I also think just having a campus community is very powerful in that it makes organizing very easy,” Cheng said.  

Although 2024 is a major election year, Vonder Haar stressed the nonpartisan nature of SDA, and the connection of gun violence prevention with Jesuit values.

“At Georgetown, I think it really resonates with the teachings of the school and with what a lot of the students believe. And so we found a lot of support from that.”

Last semester, the group handed out free gun locks and educated parents at local farmers markets. They also attended events like the White House’s Rose Garden announcement of the gun violence prevention office, the Supreme Court rally against the court’s hearing of the United States v. Rahimi case, and a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing. This year, they’re excited to host many more activities on campus like the vigil. 

“We’re also planning collaborations with George Washington, working with youth gun violence survivors in the D.C. community, and working on healing through art which we’re hoping to come in February,” Vonder Haar said. 

In the meantime, all three student leaders encouraged students to visit to read stories from D.C. or their state, and reflect on the importance of gun violence prevention.” Intentionally ground yourself,” Vonder Haar said. “Just stop your day for a moment and consider the toll that gun violence has on our nation.”

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