This January, nearly 650 high school students from across the United States converged on Capitol Hill to lobby their members of Congress as part of the RAC’s L’Taken Social Justice Seminar. One student, Sammy Polliack, a high school sophomore from Lake Oswego, Oregon, chose to lobby on gun violence prevention. He met with staff from Representative Kurt Schrader’s office and gave an impassioned speech urging co-sponsorship of the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 (HR 8).
A week after Sammy’s visit, Rep. Schrader announced that he would, in fact, co-sponsor this vital bill – an announcement that came as a surprise to many in the gun violence prevention field, as his office had previously been hesitant to come out in support of the measure.
Student voices matter. When young people speak up, politicians listen. Now, as the Bipartisan Background Check Expansion Act (S. 42) awaits a vote in the Senate, we’re sharing Sammy’s speech as a source of inspiration for what is possible when we take action:
“In the United states, over 30,000 people are killed by guns each year, and almost 76,000 people become survivors of gun violence each year. In 2017, for the first time in modern history, more Americans were killed with firearms than in motor vehicle accidents. Countless Americans have had to lose loved ones or family members because of gun violence. Gun violence affects communities of color even more acutely: Black Americans comprise just 13 percent of the US population but constitute more than 50 percent of all firearm homicides.
Twenty two percent of guns sold in the US are sold by unlicensed sellers, which includes at gun shows and on-line. These unlicensed and private sales do not require background checks, allowing unqualified and potentially dangerous people to gain easy access to guns.
According to the Brady campaign, the Brady Bill has blocked more than 3.5 million gun sales to prohibited purchasers including felons, domestic abusers, and other dangerous individuals. Because background checks are not required for all gun sales, our background check system is not as effective as it could be.
I believe that there should be better laws in place, that can decrease gun violence in our country. I urge the Representative to support closing the private sale loophole by cosponsoring the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, ensuring that all who are purchasing firearms have passed a background check.”
Follow the leadership of the inspiring students in our Movement: Contact your Senators and urge them to support the Background Check Expansion Act using our easy, online tool.