Amid a groundswell of support for gun control laws fueled by a mass shooting in Florida, Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, addressed concerned Casa Grande High School students Thursday.
Huffman, an outspoken advocate for tightening gun restrictions, delivered a clear message to the next generation of Petaluma voters: your voice matters.
“I want to give you a chance to make sure your voices are heard and I want to give my support to what I think your generation is trying to do, which is to say that maybe my generation hasn’t managed this thing too well and maybe we’ve created a dangerous situation in this country when it comes to our gun policies,” he told the auditorium of about 400 students and teachers. “It’s awesome that you’re stepping up and trying to be part of this democratic process and thinking about the kind of world you want to live in.”
Huffman described last month’s Parkland, Florida high school shooting where a gunman killed 17 people as a turning point. He issued a call to action for local youth, encouraging students to create clubs on campus, connect with socially-isolated peers and participate in nationwide causes, such as Everytown for Gun Safety.
While there’s “no shortage of protection” under California’s gun laws, Huffman said there’s work to be done nationally. This week, he signed a petition on the House floor to force a vote on bipartisan legislation that would improve and expand background checks. He is also a cosponsor of several gun safety bills, including one that would ban the sale, transfer, manufacture and importation of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
“We are without peer in the world when it comes to gun violence,” he said. “We are just light years ahead of everyone else and that’s not a distinction we ought to be partially proud of.”
Principal Eric Backman said he reached out to Huffman in an attempt to facilitate a conversation at his campus, which has about 1,700 students and 150 staff. There haven’t been any recent threats to the campus and the student body feels “healthy,” he said.
“This is an important historical moment where we’ve seen very powerful leadership coming from young people, first from Florida, but it’s spreading across the county,” he said.
The fear of gun violence has weighed heavily on 17-year-old senior Jesus Sanchez. Now, he’s ready to advocate for change.
“I think a lot of students here on campus are ready to take some action,” Sanchez said. “Before they wanted to change but didn’t know how to, but now they know that we have the power – we’re the ones who are going to be changing the world tomorrow … We feel more confident that now the representatives are looking after us.”