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Gun violence is as much about changing our culture as it is about changing our laws, says UVA undergrad activist

Darryl Morin (at the podium), president of Forward Latino, spoke at a press conference of gun violence prevention groups on Nov. 7, 2018 in Madison, Wisconsin. They spoke in support of measures to expand universal background checks and create a red flag law to allow the removal of firearms from people who pose a danger to themselves or others. Karly Scholz (second from the left) was in high school and had experienced a lockdown that year. She says that while legislative change is imperative, she focuses now on helping young people change their culture around guns. Claire Wesenberg/Courtesy

by Karly Scholz

The first time I confronted gun violence, I was 15 years old at Madison West High School in Wisconsin in 2018. We were celebrating Valentine’s Day when a student threatened a security guard with a gun and the whole school went on lockdown until he was disarmed and in custody.

The second time, I was 19 at the University of Virginia in 2022. I went on lockdown in a library overnight — but this time, three students were killed.

Since that first encounter, gun violence has been constantly on my mind. Community safety alerts flood my email inbox, updates on school shootings around the country — recently, a mass shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee at the end of March — flood my home screen. The chatter about how to protect our communities serves as an incessant reminder of the epidemic that our country is facing.

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This story was published as a part of Charlottesville Inclusive Media’s First Person Charlottesville project. Have a story to tell? Here’s how.

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