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MSU students, community discuss healing during Gun Violence Awareness Day

June 3, 2023
<p>MSU students sit at the Spartan Statue after their walkout protest against gun violence on April 12, 2023.</p>

MSU students sit at the Spartan Statue after their walkout protest against gun violence on April 12, 2023.

Photo by Sonya Barlow | The State News

Friday, June 2 marked Gun Violence Awareness Day and the start of "Wear Orange Weekend," a time to honor victims and survivors of gun violence. 

During this period, many students, organizations and communities continue to heal and grieve following the Feb. 13 shooting on Michigan State University's campus.

Local non-profit organization The Village is hosting community events throughout the month of June to help spread gun violence awareness and nonviolent conflict solutions. Program director Michael Lynn Jr. said the organization's goals are to reduce gun violence through advocacy for mental health.

"We do a multi-pronged approach, surrounding not just (an) individual, ... (but) the whole family," Lynn said. "We recognize common triggering and ... young people (having) an issue with basic needs being met."

Lynn said poor mental health is often rooted in a lack of accessible resources. Because of this, Lynn said, many people are unable to manage their emotions in a healthy way.

Psychology senior Kaylee Sochocki said she is a major advocate for gun safety laws. In high school, she led a walkout to protest the Parkland shooting. However, becoming a shooting survivor herself created a different outlook.

“A lot of guilt comes with it, where it’s like, I get to move forward and ... go on with the rest of my life, (but) there are kids that died, ... kids that were in these buildings,” Sochocki said. “They don’t get to ever move forward."

Community governance and advocacy senior Tamera Bruce said being surrounded by supportive communities has been integral to her healing.

“We are all Spartans, you know, so we should all come together and love each other,” Bruce said. “That’s what I’m appreciative for, that we found the strength within each other to carry on.”

Bruce said she spreads gun violence awareness by advocating for accessible mental health resources. She said that being unable to avoid media reporting on national gun violence makes it harder to not live in fear.

“We really have to start from the bottom, ... (by) talking to each other and not isolating each other," Bruce said. "(We can't) make (people) feel like they’re weird or different. ... We live in America, we’re all different."

Bruce said she wants to see more involvement from MSU's administration so students know who they can talk to in times of tragedy and loss. She said that the university hosting community events to spread gun violence awareness would increase familiarity among students. 

Similarly, environmental studies and sustainability senior Megan Hishon said she thinks university-required programs that prepare students for safety threats is a preventative measure that could also raise awareness for gun vioence. Hishon said she hopes more people will have an open mind when it comes to discussions surrounding gun violence and gun safety laws.

Bruce said involving more nonprofit and advocacy organizations on campus can help bring the community closer and educate people on gun violence. 

“I hope we recognize (that) other schools are going through (these) situations," Bruce said. "We need to come together."

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