By Shelby Loebker.
March for Our Lives Charlotte photographed by Nick Thomsen.
The March for Our Lives was almost a month ago, and this past Friday, April 20, students across the nation walked out of school in honor of the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting. With these major acts of protest over, students must now find new ways to continue the discussion of national gun reform spurred by the February shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School.
Freshman SCAD students Devyn Bauer and Kylie Ruffino organized the Savannah branch of the national March for Our Lives, and are adamant that student activists and others motivated by this cause must not let the conversation get swept under the rug.
“It’s important to remain active because Congress will try to brush over this, but we can’t let that happen. Social media has definitely been a large proponent of this debate, for both sides,” said Bauer. “I think it is a useful tool for uniting people and bringing people together who may or may not share the same views. I think it most definitely is both safe and appropriate, as this is something that is now life or death. We need to use our voices and our privilege to stand up for what we believe in.”
Ruffino agreed that social media has added fuel to the fire in this movement, but warns about using it as the sole source for debate. “Use social media by staying connected with the people around you, but more importantly, stay educated,” she said. “Read the news. Social media is not news, so people need to get off Twitter and off Facebook.”
Ruffino said the key for students, and the next step for her, is to vote in the midterm elections. Though Ruffino, a writing major, is registering to vote in Georgia, she said absentee voting is just as effective. “Whether or not you’re voting here isn’t as important as it is to just be voting and contributing to the society,” Ruffino said.
She explained that to vote in Georgia, if you’re from out of state, you register as a student and receive a Georgia state I.D., which doesn’t affect your driver’s license or legal address.
Ruffino is working on organizing an event at SCAD to help students register to vote and encourage them to write to their senators.
“Really right now, I think I want to stay in touch with the Savannah community and really get engaged with the city. I want to see what I can do in different places, but with the idea of continuing the message of ending gun violence….getting the ball rolling with some town hall meetings,” Ruffino said.
After the turnout at the Savannah march, she says she feels more connected to the local community, which inspired her to register to vote in Georgia, rather than her home state of Texas.
Bauer agreed. “The turnout was double what we expected,” she said. “I think the diversity of the participants is telling in and of itself. It shows that gun violence isn’t something that only affects one group in particular, but all of us. (Though POC [people of color] are disproportionately more affected.)”
“I think positive is the key word,” Ruffino said. “It’s so easy to get angry and bitter, especially over something this hard, but as soon as we use our social media influence to attack and to get bitter and to be angry – not angry in a good way, but in a way that means you can’t see people for who they are anymore – then you’re no better than the people who are fighting against you.”