Gun Violence Prevention Speech by Jeremy Liskar

This is Chicago. This is Chicago. That is the message I kept pushing as we tried to come up with the details for Chicago’s version of the March for Our Lives. There will be the national march in D.C. organized by the students that survived the Parkland shooting. There will be over a hundred marches throughout the country that stand in solidarity with those students. And that is all great. The momentum the movement for gun reform has is truly amazing and what the Parkland students went through is awful, tragic, and should never happen again. But this is Chicago, we march for our lives every single day.

Chicago has been plagued with gun violence for years. Students, primarily on our city’s south and west sides, have to constantly keep the issue in the back of their minds. Which route should I take home today? Is it safe to be out alone? If we are going to organize a march for gun reform in Chicago, it needs to be about these communities. It needs to be about those in our city affected every day.

Unfortunately, misinformation, racism, and mass generalizations of black and brown people have taken over the national conversation regarding the gun violence in Chicago. Television pundits are often heard characterizing Chicago as the murder capital of the country. The President has called Chicago worse than Afghanistan. Words like these can be used too often as a tool to demonize people of color and justify lax gun laws. Yes, Chicago has strict gun laws. But Indiana doesn’t. Wisconsin and Ohio don’t. Guess where most of the guns in Chicago came from? If we want real change, pressure needs to be put on the neighboring states where 60% of the guns recovered in Chicago were purchased.

Contrary to what the NRA will tell you, gun violence doesn’t only stem from moral inferiority or mental health issues. Gun violence also comes from poverty and a poor education system, which come from disinvestment in under-resourced communities and a lack of affordable housing. When young people feel economic strain and instability in their families, they should not simply be demonized for finding a situation like a gang that provides them that stability. And, people with mental health issues should not be demonized for the actions of a few, especially when our society has failed to invest in the resources they need to succeed.

Yes, for the teachers and students murdered in that senseless act of gun violence at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, we march. And so too do we march for all these failures of society. For the students and families that experience these issues every day, we march. For the betterment of Chicago, we march. Thank you.

Jeremy Liskar is the Orr Shalom High School Youth Group Co-President