Zoe Touray knows the reality of how gun violence can alter one’s life because she herself is a survivor.
“I was already a very jumpy person before everything happened,” Touray said. “[Now] any little movement I have to look and see what’s going on.”
As a recent graduate from Oxford High School, Touray has carried the trauma of surviving the Oxford shooting on Nov. 30, 2021. Since then, her parents have encouraged her to speak out and become an activist for victims of gun violence and the movement toward more strict gun legislation.
Following the shooting, Touray was contacted by March for Our Lives, a youth-led nonprofit organization that aims to end gun violence. It is through the Michigan chapter of MFOL that Touray serves as a youth member and frequently speaks about her experience at different events.
“They’re [members of the government] working on giving billions of dollars to schools for mental health resources, they’re working on tighter background checks and waiting periods for the age limit to buy a gun,” said Touray. “A lot of the things we wanted to see happen, we’re starting to get movement on those.”
The Lansing chapter of MFOL is led by co-lead 17-year-old Neelu Jaberi. When she was a freshman at Okemos High School, Jaberi and a friend heard about another mass shooting and decided enough was enough.
“We can’t sit back and just continue letting these happen. Our politicians aren’t doing something,” Jaberi said. “I knew that they [MFOL] wanted to have more chapters in different cities and I saw that Lansing didn’t have a chapter, so I was like, let’s start one.”
The reality of the threat of gun violence in her school or in schools in the country is something that Jaberi cannot shake.
“Since kindergarten, I’m 17, I’ve been doing lockdown drills,” said Jaberi. “Every school in the country knows that this could happen. When one [shooting] happens, it gets kids get more fearful, they get more anxious. It’s easily linked to more mental health impacts too. This is not just something that is physically hurting us as a youth, but insanely mentally impacting us as well.”
With a recent bipartisan gun safety bill in the works, Washtenaw Chapter co-lead Christine Kang said she has hope for the future.
“This legislation is definitely a push forward,” said Kang. “Hopefully this will actually be passed because we haven’t had movement within passing gun violence prevention legislation for so long. I think this is a great first step. Of course, I would like to see more, there’s more that could be done to prevent gun violence.”
The bill includes reforms such as red flag laws that attempt to get guns out of the hands of individuals who demonstrate the risk of harming themselves or others, as well as the boyfriend loophole, which aims to restrict individuals who are convicted of domestic violence from obtaining a gun whether they are in a serious dating relationship or marriage. It also includes investment in mental health resources, school security resources, an enhanced review process for those purchasing guns under the age of 21 and giving a clear definition to federally licensed firearm dealers.
Kang is a recent graduate of Skyline High School in Ann Arbor. She first joined MFOL because she wanted to make a difference and raise awareness of the epidemic that is gun violence.
“I’m really proud of the amount of people I was able to reach through this work. Whether it be within my community, or maybe with other organizers,” Kang said. “I lobbied at the capital, talking to legislators through this work.”
The Michigan chapter of the organization recently held eight marches across the state to demand political leaders to end gun violence and take action.
“Seeing so many instances of gun violence on the news has definitely made me feel personally more scared,” Kang said. “It’s pushed me to fight harder, and to work harder, so that we won’t have to fear gun violence in this country anymore.”