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.
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.
“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.)