One year after campus shooting, MSU students rally against gun violence at the state Capitol

Activists praise bills signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, offer choice words for legislators who opposed them


THURSDAY, Feb. 15 — As Michigan State University students past and present gathered at the state Capitol this afternoon to rally against gun violence, speaker Maya Manuel embraced her tears.

“Just a year ago today, I stood on these Capitol steps with you unsure of what would come from our collective efforts,” Manuel said, referring to a similar rally two days ago at MSU on the first anniversary of the shooting that killed three students and injured five others.

“Last year at this time, I was also just a student. I wasn’t affiliated with any organizations on campus, I was simply just working towards my degree,” she added.

Since then, Manuel has become a key player in student activism groups like Sit Down MSU, which co-sponsored today’s event. She is also active with Students Demand Action at MSU and End Gun Violence Now.

“I would be a coward if I let you look at me as I relive the feelings and the fear of Feb. 13 and I didn’t ask for change,” she told the crowd, turning her attention to the state legislators who have both supported and opposed recent gun sense legislation efforts.

“Growing up in a lockdown generation has taught me that the normalization and desensitization to tragedy is a dangerous game. The truth be told is we cannot pick and choose what realities matter to us,” she said. “The deadline for change is today. Please show me what you can do and prove me wrong. Don’t wait for another tragedy to make change.”

Lawmakers who continue to oppose safer gun laws, she said, “do not deserve a seat.”

“Why did you let it get this bad? How did we get here? You do not deserve power if you cannot turn our pain into your passion, and that passion into a position,” Manuel said.

Saylor Reinders, a junior at MSU and co-leader of the campus chapter of Students Demand Action, applauded the work of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and legislators who supported the four gun violence prevention laws Whitmer signed last year.

“To the gun-sense legislators, thank you for listening to us. All we want is to continue building on this momentum with you,” she said. “And to the lawmakers who, even after being confronted with the devastating consequences of having weak gun laws, still voted against the gun violence prevention bills last year, you’ve shown us time and time again that you will continue to prioritize the gun lobby over Michigan students.”

Reinders added that there’s still more work to be done, as “we can’t even properly mourn without more shootings taking place.”

“It’s incomprehensible that people can’t go to a Super Bowl parade in Kansas City, Missouri, and our students can’t go to school in Atlanta, Georgia, without facing the nightmares of gun violence. It’s everywhere, it’s all the time and we can’t escape it,” she said.

Reinders cited the roughly 120 Americans who die each day from gun violence and that firearms are now the leading cause of death “for children, teens and college-aged Americans.”

“We can’t accept this as normal. I refuse to let future generations grow up like we have, living in constant worry that any day could be their last. It doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to die like this,” Reinders said.

She urged Michigan legislators to continue pushing for more regulation.

“Moms, students and advocates across the state worked for 10 years to pass those laws. I do not want to wait another 10 to see more change,” Reinders said.

MU student body President Emily Hoyumpa and former President Jo Kovach then joined one another in solidarity on the podium as the latter recalled April 14, 2023, when Whitmer visited Spartan Stadium to sign the first of those four gun violence prevention laws.

“We can acknowledge the work that has been done in the wake of our tragedy; however, there is still much work left to do,” Kovach said, adding that an average of 1,382 Michiganders are killed by firearms each year.

“Until that number is zero, there is still work to be done. When shoot-first or stand-your-ground laws are still on the books that take an additional 150 people per year on average, there is still work to be done. When guns can be openly carried to intimidate others, like at the Capitol or in a demonstration, there is work to be done. As long as there are not strict laws in place, mass funding for social services to prevent violence in communities historically ravaged by firearms, there is still work to be done,” she said.

Several current and former students who spoke offered reflections and memories of the three students who were killed in last year’s shooting. Others expressed their ongoing grief, determination to continue to push back against legislative inaction, and, at key moments, hope for the future.

“Thank you for allowing me to lead with light in dark times,” Manuel said. “We got those damned bills passed, but we can’t stop.”

“Today I want to smile,” she added, thanking the several dozen in the audience who showed up to support the rally.

“You mean the world to me, seriously. You mean the world to us. I love you all so dearly,” she said. “Healing looks different for all of us, but I’m proud to be here standing with you today as we continue to make change together.”

Maya Manuel, Sit Down MSU, Students Demand Action, End Gun Violence Now, Michigan State University, Shooting, Campus, State Capitol, legislation, legislators, Saylor Reinders, Gretchen Whitmer, Emily Hoyumpa, Jo Kovach


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