John Rosenthal, founder and president of Stop Handgun Violence, told a group of 12 students on March 26 about the urgent need for social action to change the lack of firearm and ammunition sales regulation in America.
Famous for the billboard on the Massachusetts Turnpike that has featured several gun control messages, Rosenthal spoke to the group about his participation in civil disobedience movements when he was young, the lack of legislative regulation for the gun industry, and the need to make stricter gun regulation advocacy a priority.
Rosenthal was invited to speak at the campus as part of Emerson’s Aim to End Violence Week, an event organized by the Emerson Peace and Social Justice.
Known as EPSJ around campus, this student organization advocates and promotes education in areas of nonviolence, feminism, diversity and tolerance, equal opportunity, and ecological wisdom.
On the second day of what was a six-day effort to engage the Emerson community in a conversation about gun violence, Rosenthal’s talk highlighted the political conflicts of American’s gun culture.
“Every consumer product in America is regulated, except one. Where’s the logic?” said Rosenthal. “The gun industry is unequally regulated.”
Rosenthal’s Newton-based Stop Handgun Violence non-profit was founded in 1995. With more than 15 years of experience on guns in America, he spoke to the group of Emersonians with statistics about deaths, gun sales, and mass shootings.
“We have the ability to change in our country, largely through our democracy,” said Rosenthal. “But when it comes to guns, our democracy is broken.”
From Monday, March 25 to Saturday, March 30 a dozen events on the Emerson campus were open to the student body and the public in a collaborative effort that involved nine other on-campus organizations.
Dylan Manderlink, president of EPSJ, said after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting happened on Dec. 14 of last year, students approached her to find out what EPSJ was planning to do about the tragedy.
“Since we got back in January, we’ve been devoting our weekly meetings to work on this,” said the junior student from Ridgefield, Conn., only 20 miles away from Newtown, where the second deadliest mass shooting by a single person in American history occurred.
Emerson’s Aim to End Violence Week was organized by John Dentinger, a junior from Albany, New York; Colin Faherty, a sophomore from Milton; and Dennis Connors, a sophomore from Sayreville, New Jersey.
When Emerson College President Lee Pelton sent out a letter to the Emerson community on his initiative to promote a dialogue in higher education on gun control and later organized a panel debate series, “Made in America: Our Gun Violence Culture,” Manderlink said her group felt empowered by Pelton’s support to tackle an issue EPSJ is passionate about.
“The president’s office has been very supportive,” said Dentinger. The organizers of this weeklong awareness campaign met with Pelton, who encouraged them to reach out to Rosenthal, according to Dentinger.
Rosenthal reiterated to the students the importance of grassroots and social action to turn around the lack of gun regulations in the country.
“Make calls, send emails, have your elected officials hear from you, because the gun guys are doing it, hundreds of times a day,” he said. “Some of you may be from districts that really need it.”
Some in the audience nodded in agreement.
“Why haven’t we heard anything about the tax money that is not coming into the system from not regulating guns?” asked co-organizer Connors.
Rosenthal shrugged his shoulders. “There’s no logic,” he said.
This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and Emerson College.