Students take a stand: gun violence prevention group to form at Southeast
A chapter of Students Demand Action is forming at Southeast and is anticipated to be active by the end of the spring semester.
The group plans to work with the Southeast Missouri chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a grassroots movement that fights for public safety measures to protect people from gun violence, and plans to address gun violence prevention at Southeast and in the Cape Girardeau community.
Assistant professor of psychology Lesly Krome will be the faculty advisor, but said she plans to play a hands-off approach in the student-run group. Activism among young adults — especially in Students Demand Action — is important as it affects students, Krome said.
“We’re living in a society where we hear frequently about gun violence on campus. I work on campus, and students go to school on campus, and there is a fear that gun violence could occur on our campus,” Krome said. “That is relevant to anyone who works on or attends a university.”
Lynda Stewart, who leads the Southeast Missouri chapter of Moms Demand Action, said she is hopeful for student participation in the Students Demand Action group.
At the university’s annual Welcome Back Picnic in August, Stewart said some 80 students indicated in an online survey interest in a student group similar to Moms Demand Action. The group has been interested in starting a chapter of Students Demand Action but were unable to do so until a faculty sponsor was identified in January. They plan to offer an informational session in the upcoming weeks to gauge interest and begin more concrete plans for the student group, she said.
Both Stewart and Krome said the formation of the group is especially urgent, as legislation involving firearms on university campuses has been continuously introduced in Missouri.
Last April, the Missouri House of Representatives proposed House Bill 575 which would allow concealed carry on college campuses, according to previous reporting by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Students Demand Action is a national grassroots organization with more than 350 chapters at locations across the country. Formed in 2016, the group received national attention after the February 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, that claimed the lives of 17 students and faculty members.
The group situates young adults as leaders in preventing gun violence in the community and has been involved in student-led March for Our Lives protests across the country.
Partnering nationally with Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action, Students Demand Action is part of a combined total of 5 million survivors and supporters, according to the Everytown website.
Those interested in joining the Students Demand Action group at Southeast may contact advisor Lesly Krome or visit the national Students Demand Action website at studentsdemandaction.org.
Southeast, Cape Girardeau community feel effects of increased gun violence
The Cape Girardeau community has experienced several incidents involving firearms, with seven individuals injured or killed by gun violence during over the last month.
Cape Girardeau police Sgt. Joey Hann said comparatively, there was only one victim of gun violence in January 2019.
“January 2020 of this year was kind of an anomaly for gun violence. In that one month, we’ve had more than entire years in the past,” Hann said.
The most recent incident included shots fired near West End Boulevard on Feb. 5, which prompted nearby St. Vincent De Paul Grade School to be placed on lockdown, according to reporting by the Southeast Missourian.
At Southeast, one incident involving weapons was reported in 2019, Southeast Department of Public Safety director Beth Glaus said. On Aug. 11, an unloaded weapon was discovered in an unoccupied room in Meyers residence hall. The two individuals suspected to be involved were referred to Student Conduct and the weapon was held in DPS custody.
On Jan. 20, a Residence Life employee contacted DPS about a compressed air pellet gun in Merick residence hall. The case is still active and being reviewed by the Cape Girardeau County prosecuting attorney’s office and Southeast’s Office of Student Conduct.
The recent trend in violent crime was addressed at the Feb. 3 Cape Girardeau City Council meeting.
“I’m extremely saddened by the violence in the last few weeks, and recently. I’m saddened anytime we have violence, but I’m seeing it more repetitively,” Ward 4 representative and Southeast alumnus Robbie Guard said.
Missouri Moms Demand Action shared a statement with the Arrow on Feb. 3 following a series of crimes involving firearms in Cape Girardeau in January:
“Our heart breaks for those who were shot and their families. This is unacceptable. The fact is, gun violence impacts all of us in Missouri and this is why we won’t stop fighting to keep gun violence prevention on the forefront,” the statement read.