Illustration by Anya Chytrowski
On Thursday, April 18, Bay Area Student Activists (BAStA), a group of approximately three hundred students from thirty different schools from all over the Bay Area, made their way to the Capitol Building in Sacramento to join the national gun control movement.
According to Elina Juvonen, Berkeley High School (BHS) student and a lead organizer of the trip, BAStA’s purpose was to talk with legislators about gun policy in California and the changes that high school students wanted to see. The events of the day were centered around political action and lobbying. Ruby Baden-Laser, a student at Head-Royce, came up with the idea and created BAStA. She recruited her friends, and the word spread quickly among Bay Area teens, who mobilized to make their voice heard.
On the trip, students were split into lobby groups that attended appointments with lawmakers and legislative directors. They presented at forty previously scheduled appointments, where they made their views known. Each lobby group had a team leader, and students with specific roles such as presenting gun violence statistics, pushing specific bills, telling personal stories, and documenting the meeting.
BAStA lobbied for several different bills including Assembly Bill (AB) 3, AB 2222, Senate Bill (SB) 1200, and AB 3129, according to Juvonen and BAStA member Kai Levenson-Cupp. AB 3 would restrict California citizens from purchasing a long gun until they are 21 years old. Current legislature only requires the buyer to be eighteen.
They are also advocating for the passage of AB 2222, which expands on a previous law that requires police to report to a federal database the specific details regarding a firearm which has been stolen, lost, found, or put under observation. AB 2222 would extend required reporting to additional types of law enforcement agencies and shorten the length of time for reporting to three days, according to Juvonen.
SB 1200 amends a previous law that allows courts to prohibit a person — through a restraining order — from buying a firearm if they are deemed a danger to themselves or others. This bill would extend this restraining order so that such people could not buy firearm parts to build a gun, and restricts the court from charging a fee when the restraining order is requested.
The final bill that BAStA is pushing for is AB 3129, which makes it illegal for someone to own a firearm after conviction of a domestic violence related misdemeanor, according to Juvonen.
Students felt that speaking with the legislators was both inspiring and empowering and that they were able to have their opinions heard by people in power. “The energy around me made me feel happy and complete,” said Kira Galbraith, BHS student and one of the four leaders of BAStA.
Meeting with staffers and representatives gave students insight into how government works. “It was an informative experience on politics and bureaucracy,” said Levenson-Cupp.
After their appointments, the students gathered to give speeches on gun violence. “We are here today because our country, and our fellow Americans have made it clear that nobody is coming to save us, not the adults, nor the elected officials,” said Jake Cohen, a freshman at Tamalpais High School to the crowd of fellow high school students. “The right to own a firearm and wield it unchecked is not justice, nor is it liberty.”
Juvonen explained most students never imagined themselves being in a position to talk to legislators. “It was really cool to see people gain new skills and experiences,” she said.
She believes this trip set a great precedent for BAStA, and that this group of students will have a network in place to address the problems they are passionate about.