Chandler teen on national anti-gun violence board SanTan Sun News

Chandler teen on national anti-gun violence board

October 22nd, 2020 Editorial Staff
Chandler teen on national anti-gun violence board
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By PAUL MARYNIAK
Executive Editor

The pandemic – with its school closures, online learning angst and a general sense of isolation – may have pushed school shootings out of many people’s minds but Anvitha Doddipalli isn’t one of them.

The Chandler resident, a senior at Corona Del Sol High School, still remembers her shock over the 2018 Valentine’s Day massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that left 17 people dead and 17 others injured – most of them students.

She was 14 and a freshman at Corona del Sol and she was shaken by the slaughter.
“Like many others my age, I was initially unaware of the gun violence crisis in America and just the extent to which it ran.

The Parkland shooting in 2018 was kind of that wake-up call for me,” Anvitha recalled. “It was the realization that this isn’t really even an isolated tragedy but a frequent recurrence.”

She first researched the issue of gun violence for a paper for a class, recalling, “I was quite shocked at the lack of response to this issue.”

And then, she said, “slowly I was drawn to activism. I didn’t want to just sit back.”

Anvitha earlier this month was named one of 16 national advisory board members for Students Demand Action, a grassroots network of Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund.

Created by and for teens and young adults, Students Demand Action says it aims “to channel the energy and passion of high school and college-aged students into the fight against gun violence” and has 400 chapters across the country.

Everytown for Gun Safety is the largest gun violence prevention organization in the country, counting six million supporters and more than 375,000 donors who include parents, local government officials, survivors, students and other citizens who campaign “for common-sense gun safety measures that can help save lives.”

As a leader in Students Demand Action’s statewide operations and the statewide virtual field office it set up in the wake of the pandemic, Anvitha has spent the last few years balancing her energies between her studies and her quest for those measures.

Her elevation to the group’s national advisory board means that she not only will be sharpening her own leadership and rhetorical skills but will also mentor other teens into becoming effective proponents for change in the hope of ending the scourge of deadly school shootings that ironically has only been abated by the scourge of a deadly virus.

The pandemic first threw her and her colleagues for a loop.

“We definitely hit a huge block initially just because all of this organizing initially was going to be in-person with field work and community drives and in-person recruitment,” Avintha said.

“But we definitely have been able to adapt as we’ve taken things virtually and used kind of relational organizing and trained differently in virtual networking,”she added, noting that right now she and her colleagues have been focusing on the election

That alone is a challenge for her and her compatriots.

“With in-person learning coming back, everyone just has a lot on their plate trying to balance these new unusual circumstances along with the super-important election coming up,” Anvitha explained. “It’s definitely been a little challenging.”

Nationwide, she said, Students Demand Action has registered over 100,000 young people to vote and while school shootings has all but disappeared from the national conversation, she and other members of the group say their mission lives on partly because addressing police violence has become part of their mission as well.

Though she herself is too young to vote, Anvitha said age has been no barrier to teens when it comes to the election.

“We are trying to increase voter turnout in general,” Anvitha said. “We of course know that young people especially have grown up in the midst of our country’s gun violence crisis and now especially with the recent killings George Floyd Breonna

Taylor and so many others it’s added even more urgency to the conversations around police violence and gun violence and their disproportionate impact on Black people in America.

“So we definitely know that the youth are a lot more passionate for change and a lot more motivated to end gun violence and police violence and we are definitely trying to help amplify their voices in the election.”

But she also stressed, “Nobody wants their Second Amendment rights controlled and I think it’s important to note that neither do we.

“Our goal is to merely prevent gun violence and keep communities safe, which is something that we can all agree on,” Anvitha continued. “That is why the gun violence prevention movement is made up of individuals across partisan boundaries, including gun owners. We’re just all coming together to pass common-sense legislation.”

Anvitha thinks her peer group is particularly energized to continue their actions well beyond Nov. 3.

“Young people have definitely grown up amid all these crises,” she said, “I definitely would say we get their young people are a lot more motivated and just a lot more passionate about making a change and we definitely are trying to harness that.”

“It not enough for this movement to just be built from survivors of gun violence,” she stressed. “It is the rest of us that must rise as allies to ensure that no else has to live in fear or identify as a survivor again. Having grown up in the heart of this crisis and being so closely impacted, the youth have strong ideas and opinions and are committed to ending gun violence and police violence in America.

“Even as students we can make a difference and moving forward, we will demand action. Although Students Demand Action is part of a network of nearly 6 million supporters with over 400 student action groups throughout the nation, we are definitely still growing in Arizona.”

Information: anvitha.studentsdemand@gmail.com

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