In February, a mass shooting took place at Michigan State University, killing three students, critically injuring five, and leaving a campus full of shocked, hurt and upset students. But the traumatizing event hasn’t stopped students from charging forward and pushing for gun reform. Saylor Reinders, a second-year student at Michigan State who was on campus at the time of the shooting, has been instrumental in that change. Broadview spoke to her about the tragedy and the work she’s been doing since.
Meredith Poirier: Can you tell me a little bit about the experience of being on campus during the shooting?
Saylor Reinders: I was in my dorm room. And suddenly I received an email saying that there were shots fired on campus and that we needed to run, hide and fight. And so I went into lockdown [in] my room, and made sure my roommate came back (because she was in the lounge downstairs), and we barricaded our door, shut off the lights, shut the blinds. And we stayed that way for four and a half hours closely listening to the police scanner. It was very scary, because there [was] lots of misinformation coming in to the police scanner. And so at certain points, we thought that there were multiple shooters, and that there were explosives on campus. And so it was a very scary night.
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MP: Why are you raising your voice on this issue? And are there any particular projects that you’re working on right now?
SR: I’m part of Students Demand Action. I’m actually the president of my chapter here at Michigan State University and we’re a nonpartisan organization working on gun violence. And I joined purely because of being part of Gen Z, my generation here in the United States. We are constantly growing up in fear of the next shooting. And so that’s really what drove me to join the movement. And then unfortunately, my university ended up being victim to a mass shooting.
So right now, we just got done pushing for three packages of bills to be passed to the Michigan government, which were secure storage, background checks on all gun sales and red flag laws and we got them all to pass. They’re all signed into law by the governor, which is extremely exciting. We did that through rallies outside of the Capitol, meetings with legislators, emailing [and] calling legislators. I also give a lot of credit to my fellow students, too, who have done a lot with their own organizations and as a group, together, we’ve all really, really made a change after the shooting. There was a mass shooting a little over a year prior at a high school in Michigan [Oxford High School] and it was really sad to see a lack of action after that shooting.
So while the legislator did act after [the Michigan State] shooting, I just want to point out that they didn’t do anything after that shooting, and it was very hard to see because we lost four students in that as well.
MP: Would you say that (in Michigan), things are moving forwards right now or are they moving backwards?
SR: I feel very hopeful for Michigan. In the fall midterm election, they flipped the government… and basically there is a Democratic majority in the House, Senate and the governor’s [office], which is very important for passing these gun sense laws, because previously, before this election…they weren’t even interested in seeing any gun sense laws as they made it a very partisan issue.
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MP: In general, what do you think the average person can do to contribute towards positive changes with gun legislation? Do you think there’s anything that Canadians can do?
SR: The average American citizen — for sure, vote. Number one thing, go out and vote and vote with this issue in mind, because guns are the leading cause of death for youth in America today. I think voting is so important and we need to make sure we are voting for people who are for gun safety [and] gun sense. And then beyond that, there are people like myself who are going to continue pushing, talking to legislators and rallying [to make sure] they are prioritizing gun sense because obviously there is so much that they want to address in government, but this is a very important issue.
For Canadians — support us, talk about what’s going on. I think it’s very important that it’s talked about. Part of our mission at Students Demand Action is culture change. So many shootings occur on a daily basis, whether it’s community violence or death by suicide. [A very small percentage] of [gun violence fatalities] in the U.S. are from mass shootings, but those are the ones that you hear about most often. There’s just so much gun violence in our country. And I think that it’s very important that it’s talked about here and elsewhere.
MP: Could you talk a little bit more about Students Demand Action?
SR: Some of our goals for next semester [are]…encouraging students to register to vote and go out and vote in the primary election. We also want to get our university to close a loophole that allows visitors to carry concealed weapons on campus. For the safety and ease of mind of our students, I think it’s very important that we close that loop. We’d like to see more legislation around mental health support, an assault weapons ban and prohibition or relinquishment for domestic abusers.
Meredith Poirier is an intern at Broadview.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
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