Staples Students Plan Afternoon Of Gun Violence Awareness

The Parkland massacre 2 years ago — and a subsequent assault rifle scare at their own school — affected, then galvanized many Staples High students.

Elana Atlas was just a freshman. But she organized a national letter-writing campaign to legislators, and created a website — Action Against Gun Violence — filled with background information on school shootings; texts sent by terrified students in the midst of gunfire; counter-arguments to the “right to bear arms” clause; links to gun safety organizations; advice on how to start your own movement — and of course, her letter templates.

Elana Atlas, at work 2 years ago.

Two years later, the epidemic continues unabated. But — rather than being discouraged, or overwhelmed by the pressures of being a Staples junior — Elana is committed more than ever to doing what she can to making America’s schools and streets safe for everyone.

In the aftermath of Parkland, she joined fellow Stapleites Audrey Bernstein, Ruby Coleman, Kaela Dockray, Brooke Kessler, Peri Kessler and Eliza Oren in creating a local high school chapter of Students Demand Action. That’s the national organization — affiliated with Everytown for Gun Safety — fighting for common sense gun reform and usage.

Now, Elana has helped turned it into an official Staples High School club.

She’s sparked a number of intriguing projects. The group is working on an open letter to Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader who has stalled most gun legislation in that chamber. They’re coordinating with student groups around the country — especially in McConnell’s home state of Kentucky — to get viral social media attention.

Staples’ Students Demand Action and the Westport/Fairfield Moms Demand Action chapter presented a panel on gun violence in schools. Elana was one of the speakers.

Next month, and again in June, the students will commemorate Parkland.

Right now, they’re gearing up for their biggest event yet. On Friday, January 24 (3 p.m., Toquet Hall), Students Demand Action sponsors “An Afternoon of Gun Prevention and Activism.”

Toquet will hum with activities. There will be information about local, state and national legislators’ stands on gun laws; signmaking (with photos, to post on social media); voter registration, and speakers, including lawmakers, studens, and Tara Donnelly Gottlieb, whose parents were killed in 2005 during a robbery of their Fairfield jewelry store.

The goal, Elana says, is to show that the Westport gun violence movement remains strong — and help people get involved.

In 2018, Staples High School students stood in the courtyard to demand action on gun violence. They’re still going strong. (Photo/Ali Feder)

“An Afternoon of Gun Prevention and Activism” is open to all. Elana hopes many high school students will attend, and that parents will bring their children too.

“It will be uplifting — not gory,” she promises.

And very, very important.

(Pre-registration is not mandatory, but it helps for planning numbers. Click here to pre-register.)

16 responses to “Staples Students Plan Afternoon Of Gun Violence Awareness

  1. Bravo Elana and the other Staples students supporting this effort.

  2. Mary Cookman Schmerker

    Keep leading the way. We need you!

    • Mary Lou Cookman Schmerker

      Elena, do not be discouraged or intimated by some of the responses. I am replying under my earlier comment because….. I read our Houston Newspaper after commenting and there was an editorial by the editor in chief of the Bellaire, Texas High School. Her name is Mizuki Kai. The editorial is about the recent shooting at her school last Tuesday. I realized that at least I have become insensitive to this. Yes, I care deeply but these tragedies are happing so frequently that it is almost common place to read about them. You are the future. You are a gifted communicator. I celebrate your efforts. Thank you. You are and will continue to make a difference.

  3. Bravo! You are our future. Wise move to “target” Moscow Mitch- he needs to go.

  4. Jacque O'Brien

    Well done! Keep moving forward!

  5. Great work, Elena! Proud of you and your organization efforts. Never give up!

  6. A. David Wunsch

    As a Staples alumnus, class of 1956, I’m proud of you all.

  7. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

    Anything that builds consensus on this tragic situation is good and this effort/initiative is a very hopeful sign of life. Just a suggestion: Creating “counterarguments to the right to bear arms” isn’t going to get anybody anywhere. There is no way in anyone’s lifetime that you could ever get that done. All that will be accomplished is to further polarize the country. I hope this is not news to anyone but gun violence is highly complex as to cause. Many actions are immediately available without taking on the 2nd Amendment. Gun violence comes in many forms and from many places: Mentally ill, gangs, neo nazis, terrorists, PTSD victims cycling back into society from our never ending wars, parental abdication, the list goes on and on. I find it interesting and very troubling that recent acts of violence using a deadly weapon seem to be increasing in the form of stabbing/slashing/ied’s, etc.

    Those are just my thoughts. Whatever CAN be done SHOULD be done but challenging/amending the Constitution is the longest way around and isn’t going to end change any of the root causes. Go after it if you wish but don’t harbor any false illusion

    • Eric, I think they have no choice but to address Second Amendment issues because the Supreme Court has been looking at those issues.

      Also, I don’t think it’s a hopeless cause to bring it up. I say that because I have a college friend who was a longtime NRA member and he finally refused to renew his membership. He wrote a letter to the NRA head in which my friend was very critical of what he felt were the extreme positions the NRA was taking on gun control.

      • Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

        Fred, my point (and maybe It wasn’t stated clearly enough) was from a practical standpoint to focus on “closer in” actions that can bear nearer term results than attempting to overturn the 2nd Amendment which would be highly contentious and might even cause more violence than it would prevent The situation with respect to gun violence is urgent and should be prioritized as such.

      • After 20+ years of being an NRA member I didn’t renew this year. I have some major differences with the organization in regards to background checks. I think that a background check should be run 100% of the time a gun is sold/transferred even if between family members.

  8. Unfortunately I do not agree with this group’s efforts because they are calling for flat out confiscation of those legally allowed to own that do not have mental/violence issues themselves. I think a big part of the issue is mental illness and groups like this one should perhaps focus on rallying to get states / government to provide more funding and better mental health programs. I disagree that guns should be confiscated or banned from someone that is legally allowed to possess that does not have a mental or violence problem of their own just because someone in the home has an issue. I think a better approach is to require the gun owner in those cases to securely store the firearms at all times it is not on their person with penalties (including confiscation) if they do not abide. Perhaps the group can re-think that. Something else that I would like to see is national reciprocity with a universal background check. Some states are so relaxed and if all states/cities are on the same page I think it will be a good thing. Further, there is the whole issue of illegal guns or those that legally cannot possess guns that have guns. I think that there should be more funding and efforts to remove illegal guns and recover guns from those that legally cannot possess (i.e. felons). Why infringe on gun owners rights that legally can own guns? Why not focus on mental health and illegal guns / those that cannot possess guns that have guns. Further, I think fundraising should be banned like one Westporter attempted a couple years ago for a convicted felon with prior violence and gun charges. That individual got out of jail only to end up back in jail for serious violent crimes and gun charges (again). I never understood that fundraising effort because legally I think the felon has to repay the state for the incarceration so perhaps its a moot point as I don’t know what was done with the money. Sorry for any grammar/misspellings I typed this on my phone.

  9. Regarding the post above mine, the writer says that a person’s guns should be allowed in a home even if a family member residing in the same home has mental health or violence issues. Really? In my opinion, I don’t care what security issues might be taken in that case as it sounds like a definite recipe for disaster.
    We need more groups like this worldwide. Not to say that everything they are advocating for must occur, but the more dialogue that occurs the greater we have a chance of tackling this horrible, endless cycle of death by guns.

    Also, the poster above me apologized in advance for the possible poor “grammar” usage because he was typing on his cell phone?
    Not sure I get the connection there, but it caused me to smile, and thank you for that.

    • D. Evans yes, some people have a need for a gun for their safety, to protect their family, their job, etc. So long as the gun is secured or kept on someone’s person, I do not see why their should be a blanket prohibition. I am not going to get into a long list of reasons and examples but people do think about Sandy Hook and IIRC the perp had access to guns that were not secured, used one of the guns that was readily accessible to shoot the mother, take the key to gun safe off the mother, and then access additional guns. I would also be fine if the law included specifics that no one shall let someone with a known mental defect or history of unpredictable violence handle their guns, take them to a shooting range, etc. All of which the perp’s mother allowed.

  10. KGibson says that only the US
    needs to promote discussion on guns.
    While most of the gun violence does occur here, to not make this a serious topic of discussion for “all” countries would be foolish.

  11. What if every student had a bulletproof backpack? Many think this is fear monger but what if it creates a preventative, personal way to fight back instead of at the 2nd amendment.