by Abby Ledoux ’14

Emerson’s Aim to End Violence Week launched March 25 with an event called “Painting Your Pain,” which had students using art to express their feelings on gun violence.

The weeklong series of events is meant to encourage a campus dialogue on America’s culture of gun violence. Several student organizations are co-sponsoring the week, which is spearheaded by Emerson Peace and Social Justice.

“This event is a mix of conversation and creativity,” Dennis Connors ’15, an Emerson Peace and Social Justice member, said of Painting Your Pain. “We wanted to have different event types.”

As music played throughout the Piano Row Multipurpose Room, students gathered around tables and painted everything from peace signs to rifles to abstract motifs.

“I think this event is really important because it’s just about creating art, which is a lot of what our school is about,” said Victoria Masteller ’16. “It’s an easy technique that creates conversation.”

"Before, we were talking about inner-city violence,” said Connors. “So we’re painting what is inspired by that conversation to express ourselves.” A large poster on a nearby table asked students, “What does gun violence mean to you?” In different colors they scrawled their answers, ranging from “preventable losses,” “a solvable issue,”  “lack of control,” to “something I see on TV.”

“I’ve been very supportive of everything Emerson Peace and Social Justice has done this whole week,” said Nick de la Canal ’15, who attended the event. “I think it’s good to bring awareness to gun violence.”

De la Canal is also president of the Class of 2015, which organized a candlelight vigil for victims of gun violence that took place on Boston Common on the night of March 25.

“The biggest inspiration for us was [Emerson President Lee] Pelton’s letter to the school, and his letter to President Obama,” Connors said. “We saw that as a call to action, and that something needed to happen within the school community, student-run, to start to have that dialogue.”

Shortly after the December school shooting massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, Pelton gathered nearly 300 signatures from college and university presidents pledging to join him in increasing dialogue on gun violence on campuses across the country. The signatures were attached to a letter sent to President Obama. Pelton also started the College Presidents’ Gun Violence Resource Center website.

Aim to End Violence Week will continue through March 30, when the week concludes with a letter-writing initiative for students to express their opinions on gun control to congressional representatives.

“Where does violence come from? What can we do to help bring about its end? What are the controversial issues that we can talk about?” Connors said. “That’s how we got this started.”

This article can be found on the Emerson website here.

Over a week ago, I attended President Pelton’s gun violence panel “Whose Right Is It, Anyway?” at the Jackie Liebergott Black Box Theatre. The speakers differed on partisanship and perspective, but one viewpoint that was notably missing from the conversation was a woman’s.

Both the absence of representation among the panelists and the omission of a discussion about how women are affected by gun violence provides a lack of understanding of the issue as a whole. Gun violence does not just exist in the halls of classrooms in middle-class Connecticut. It exists in urban homes where women and children remain vulnerable at the hands of abusers who use these types of weapons to manipulate and to kill.

Despite the presence of WGBH’s Emily Rooney as a moderator for the panel, her voice neglected to bring a female perspective. At no point did she use her unique input influenced by her gender to supplement the conversation or reflect on how gun violence encompasses issues that affect women on a daily basis.

This week, Donna P. Hall, president and CEO of the Women Donors Network, an organization that helps women inject their voices in demands for change, published an editorial in the Huffington Post. The organization recently held an event that brought together more than 100 women leaders to Washington, D.C. to talk about the crucial role women play in changing the social, legal, and political reality of gun violence.

At this convention, they presented the first women-focused poll on gun violence, which shows a clear gender divide on how these leaders view the problem with a 21-point gap proving that women put a lesser importance on gun rights over safety within their communities.

 In the same poll, statistics found that women see the solution to this problem differently than men, showing that they placed a greater emphasis on mental illness treatment and care, anti-bullying campaigns in schools, and counseling for troubled youths.

Although many audience members asked impassioned questions during the panel, I was shocked that among the valid outrage over a lack of a discussion about racial and socio-economic diversity, it went unacknowledged how much gun violence affects women and their differing perspective on this issue. The words “domestic violence” were used only in passing by one panelist, Jack McDevitt, associate dean at Northeastern University’s College of Criminal Justice. This is despite the fact that domestic violence heightens the risk of, and often ends with, homicide in cases where guns are in the home.

On average, more than three women and one man are murdered by their significant others in the United States every day, according to a recent commission by the American Bar Association. Access to firearms increases the risk of domestic homicide more than five times compared to instances where there is no access to this type of weapon.

Due to the national prevalence of domestic violence homicide and the impact of greater accessibility to firearms on these statistics, I find it troubling that efforts meant to create awareness around gun violence excludes such a significant demographic like gender.

The presence of guns are so tied to intimate partner homicide, Congress passed the Lautenberg Amendment in 1996, which prohibits anyone convicted of a felony or misdemeanor for domestic violence from shipping, transporting, owning, or using guns or ammunition. This law also prohibits the sale or gift of firearms to the offenders, and does not exempt those who work with firearms like police or military personnel.

Eighteen states have followed suit and created laws that authorize police officers to remove these guns from the home when responding. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have laws that allow courts to order a removal of firearms from homes where a civil protection order is requested. Eleven states have both these laws, according to a study conducted by Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research in October of 2009.

This study shows that 23 states refuse to put into place the aforementioned practices which help prevent homicides, and even the states with these laws in place have vague and ambiguous language like the police “may” remove guns, rather than “must” or “should,” which make these laws hard to enforce. An inefficiency of the current laws to protect survivors should press the public to understand the prevalence of domestic violence and how political policies play into this issue.

 By including voices and viewpoints representative of this issue on interrelated issues like gun control, we are creating a generation that no longer sees domestic violence as a “woman’s issue,” but rather as a subset of the greater issue of violence that plagues our society. I believe that if Emerson wants to create an open and honest discussion on the issue, more X chromosomes need to be invited to the bargaining table for future panels on this issue.

By Katie Prisco-Buxbaum 

This article can be found at: http://berkeleybeacon.com/opinion/2013/2/14/gun-control-lacks-x-chromosome